Reporting Matt Brickman
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It was only the first game of spring training, but things were looking good for the Minnesota Twins.
Saturday’s win was a reminder that the season starts on April 9.
This season at Target Field, you’ll notice a lot of new faces in the lineup. One person fans are happy to see return to the team is Terry Ryan. He’s a respected general manager whose previous tenure led to six division titles.
“When you have the reputation that we have had for the last 15 years or so, people do want to come here,” Ryan said.
Last season was one to forget. Ryan’s challenge is now creating the foundation for a successful team.
“I think we brought a lot of high character guys here this year,” he said.
Ryan sought out big names to bulk up the Twins’ anemic line up.
“We brought [Josh Willingham] in to protect Morneau and Mauer in the lineup. he’s got power,” Ryan said.
Look for Willingham in right field this season. He spent the last year in Oakland. He’ll bring a lot of power to the right side of the plate.
Ryan Doumit brings versatility to the lineup. He can back up Mauer behind the plate and fill in in the outfield.
“The main reason we brought him was his bat,” Ryan said. “He’s a very talented switch hitter.”
Infield defense has been a sore subject for the team. The Twins have had seven different shortstops on Opening Day in as many years.
Jamey Carroll is one of the best defensive players in the game. While he’s expected to play shortstop for the Twins this season, he has experience at second and third base.
This year, the Twins bullpen has new guns to bring heat on the mound.
“Jason Marquis is a pitcher who has a lot of experience,” Ryan said. “We like him quite a bit as an inning eater and he’s certainly keeps the ball in the ballpark.”
Now, the biggest challenge facing the Twins may be the loss of leadership. Fan favorites like Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel and Jim Thome are now with different clubs. They’re players who not only stepped up to the plate, but rallied the locker room.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that can assume a leadership role,” Ryan said. “The one thing you have to remember about leadership:It comes with putting numbers on the board. You can’t be much of a leader if you’re in the trainer’s room.”
The front office’s biggest challenge might be keeping players like Joe Mauer, Denard Span and Justin Morneau healthy and off the bench.
“We’ll win games if we’re healthy enough,” Ryan said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.”
A healthy and competitive team is all fans can hope for. The Twins were also counting on having relief pitcher Joel Zumaya in the rotation. But after throwing a dozen pitches at spring training, he tore a ligament in his elbow.
He now needs surgery and will likely be out for the season.