MLB Team-By-Team Previews 2009: How Long Can Joe Mauer Survive Behind The Plate?
LHP Dennys Reyes
3B Joe Crede, RHP Luis Ayala
Projected (Opening Day w/o Mauer) Lineup:
LF: Denard Span
2B: Alexi Casilla
RF: Michael Cuddyer
1B: Justin Morneau
DH: Jason Kubel
3B: Joe Crede
C: Mike Redmond
SS: Nick Punto
CF: Carlos Gomez
Joe Nathan (CL)
A young rotation (averaging just 25 years old) with a number one guy in Scott Baker leading the team in experience, starting just his fifth major league season. Kevin Slowey has shown a lot of promise this spring, painting the corners as well as he was last season after a remarkable 24 walks in 160.1 innings pitched. Liriano is back, and while he will never be in his 2006 form again, Francisco has the possibility of being Santana Jr. if he stays healthy. Perkins and Blackburn to finish out the rotation showed some signs of a promising career, have another year under their belts and will have another season of opportunity to showcase their skills.
One of, if not, THE reason the Minnesota Twins did not make the postseason last year was because of a bullpen that faltered in the final month. Matt Guerrier, who pitched in a total of 76 games last year, ended up being entirely ineffective by the hind end of the season. Nathan was cooked, and the set up men in Jesse Crain and Craig Breslow were blowing any lead given to them. Jose Mijares, a late call-up who was the Twins only saving grace at the end of the year, has been atrocious this spring with an 11.25 ERA and questioned by both Pitching Coach Rick Anderson and Manager Ron Gardenhire about his attitude on the ballclub.
Players to Watch:
Liriano is back after an off-season full of work with pitching coach, Rick Anderson, figuring out how to utilize his change-up that has been improving immensely, along with controlling the counts with his fastball. His delivery, which has caused many concerns as far as longevity is concerned, has been turned down and controlled a little bit more with a slider that could quite honestly be one of the top 5 most dominating pitches in the Majors.
After a season full of injuries last year with Chicago, Crede looks to find some sort of redemption with his new team. The third basemen spot is a lot deeper than most fans would think in Minnesota with backups Brian Buscher and Brendan Harris who will both be right at Crede’s heels for playing time.
90 wins and 1st place in the AL Central. With a team like Cleveland on the rise with perhaps the performance they did late last season, Detroit trying to find themselves all over again, Chicago continuing on with their same formula, and Kansas City always finding ways to improve, it should be a close battle with all four other teams all season long.
News and Notes:
For those who haven’t heard, Joe Mauer will probably not be starting Opening Day and perhaps a few weeks into the season with continued back pain and some complications from a kidney surgery done in the off-season. While Joe is still young (just 27 years old), he has what seems like a back of a 20 year veteran. Talks has always been around about Joe maybe moving to another position at third or first base, or just being a designated hitter for the latter part of his career. He will still be a catcher this season, and will be starting there as long as humanly possible. I still question how long exactly that is.