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The Rays got their man at the deadline. Arggggh!

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 10:07 AM
I've mentioned former Miami Marlin and now Tampa Bay Ray RP Nick Anderson as an obvious Twins' deadline target for the pen previously. Th...
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Front Page: Catching Up With Nick Gordon

Twins Minor League Talk Today, 10:07 AM
Quietly, Twins infield prospect Nick Gordon has put together some really strong numbers in 2019 for the Rochester Red Wings. Unfortunatel...
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Killebrew or Puckett?

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 10:03 AM
Wondering what you all think about Harmon Killebrew and Kirby Puckett. Which one meant more to the Twins franchise and which one was more...
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Front Page: Twins Minor League Report (8/22): Rochester R...

Twins Minor League Talk Today, 10:01 AM
Tonight on the farm there were a pair of affiliates that scored runs in bunches. The Red Wings put on a hitting clinic and the E-Twins sa...
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Is Cruz the best Twins FA signing ever?

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 09:54 AM
The old man has only been a Twin a short time and even shorter when you look at games played, but so far, is he the best FA signing in Tw...
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Twins Rotation Is Starting Strong

In 2016, when they lost 103 games, the Twins allowed 889 runs. That's 100 more than any other American League team – an astonishing average of 5.5 R/G. Minnesota's starters combined for a 5.39 ERA, worst in the majors by far.

The rotation's dazzling performance in Baltimore during this season's opening series – 21 scoreless innings, punctuated by a complete game shutout on Sunday – is impressive on its own, but even more so against that backdrop.
Image courtesy of Evan Habeeb, USA Today (Jake Odorizzi)
Needless to say, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine inherited a bit of a mess on the starting pitching front. The unit showed progress in 2017, moving from 30th to 19th in ERA, but now must take another step forward in order to solidify the club's status as a bona fide contender.

Against the Orioles, three key components of the front office's recipe were personified: proactivity, polish, and patience.

PROACTIVITY: Key Trade Acquisition Pays Immediate Dividends

Jake Odorizzi wasn't among the Twins pitchers who reported to Fort Myers in mid-February. He wouldn't be acquired until camp was already underway. But by the time spring training ended, he had earned the billing of Opening Day starter. And boy, did he look up the challenge on Thursday.

Unleashing a torrent of high four-seamers and low splitters, Odorizzi kept the Orioles off-balance and out-of-whack, allowing just two hits and two walks over six shutout frames while fanning seven.

By all accounts, Odorizzi's availability this offseason was no secret. In October, Tampa Bay Times beat writer Marc Topkin called him the Rays player "most likely to be dealt this winter," and in the ensuing months, Odorizzi was connected to multiple teams – including the Twins.

Tampa held out as long as possible, but ultimately, once camp started and they needed to finally pull the trigger, all they could extract was a mid-level infield prospect in Jermaine Palacios.

It was enough to make you wonder just what red flags the rest of the league's teams saw in Odorizzi. Starting pitching is forever in-demand, and here we had a 27-year-old former first-round pick with a reasonable salary, and a successful track record in the AL East. No one was willing to pony up more than a future utility man in Single-A? What gives?

Granted, injuries limited Odorizzi to 143 innings last year, and his peripherals were not pretty. But with his age and pedigree, he's the kind of guy you bet on, and so far the Twins look smart for doing so.

The same basic question that surrounds Odorizzi – "Why did no one else want this guy??" – also apply to Monday's starter, Lance Lynn. We'll see if the front office's other proactive addition can make a similarly strong first impression in Pittsburgh.

POLISH: Gibson's Improvements Carry Over

Yes, Falvey and Levine needed to bring in some outside talent to bolster the rotation. But another key element of turning the unit around was getting more out of its existing assets.

Kyle Gibson was a prime candidate for repair. In many ways, he's the prototype for an effective major-league starting pitcher: tall, lean and cerebral, with ample velocity and heavy sinking stuff. His sinker can be a grounder machine and his slider has bordered on elite at times. But shaky command, inconsistent mechanics, and health issues have continually plagued him.

I'm not ready to say Gibson is out of the woods, but he looks like a different player these days. Somewhere around the middle of last summer, a light-bulb flickered for the right-hander. He made some noticeable tweaks – changing his arm slot, shifting on the rubber, altering his repertoire – and suddenly looked like the sturdy workhorse we've been waiting for all along.

His reinvention carried over to the mound this spring, but that meant little, given his history of dominating the Grapefruit League before fizzling in the regular season. He knows that.

"Too many times in the past I've had that approach in the spring, and then for whatever reason change it when I get into the season," Gibson said after an outstanding spring performance against the Rays in March. "I learned a lot toward the end of the year last year – how my pitches work and how using the fastball differently can help."

He's referring, in part, to a tactic that Mr. Odorizzi specializes in – high four-seamers. Gibson has often in the past eschewed that pitch but used it heavily on Saturday, as he did throughout the latter weeks of 2017. Gibson's command was characteristically imperfect, but this time he made it work, firing six hitless innings despite five walks.

He will need to keep it going before regaining the full confidence of fans at large, but according to Game Score, his first start of 2018 was better than any of his 29 in 2017. With new pitching coach Garvin Alston garnering positive early reviews, and a vaunted brain trust in baseball operations, it's easy to feel good about the Twins getting the most out of their arms.

Phil Hughes will probably present their biggest challenge yet. We'll see how that goes.

PATIENCE: Berrios Arrives

Odorizzi was great on Thursday. Gibson was even better on Saturday. But on Easter Sunday, Jose Berrios blew them both away with his tour de force: an utterly dominant complete-game shutout.

Sure, the Twins probably did some polishing with Berrios, but really, what was required in his case is patience. He dominated every level of the minors, but arrived in the big leagues as an undersized 21-year-old. His tumultuous rookie experience wasn't all that surprising, nor his massive improvement in Year 2.

Now, as he enters his first full season as a big-leaguer, Berrios appears to be pulling it all together. Also not surprising.

"Every year I get to know my body and myself more," Berrios told me this spring. His first start of 2018 was certainly reflective. The 23-year-old was in control from start to finish against the Orioles, deploying his devastating arsenal with more precision than we've ever seen before during his time in a Twins uniform. "What a clinic," said one scout in attendance.

Patience might pay off in more way than one the Twins front office. Fernando Romero is expected to open the season at Class-AAA Rochester, and could wind up being one of the most impactful rookie additions to a major-league pitching staff this season. Stephen Gonsalves, Zack Littell, Lewis Thorpe and others are all verging on MLB-ready.

It's natural to get overly excited about such a spectacular showing in the season's first three games. But what we saw from the Twins rotation in Baltimore was no fluke. This was by design.

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22 Comments

"It's natural to get overly excited about such a spectacular showing in the season's first three games. But what we saw from the Twins rotation in Baltimore was no fluke. This was by design."

I would say its a little fluky at least. I'm more optimistic than most and the pitchers did look good but SSS and all against one team. I'm loving it but lets see where we sit after a few more series.Baker, Slowey and Blackburn had some nice three game stretches as well.

    • markos likes this

Whoa Camel!!!I share the enthusiasm.That was an awesome first series!Impressive starting pitching.Impressive hitting.The moves this spring look great so far, but the notion of intelligent design has yet to be proven.

 

Next up, Lance Lynn!!

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Brock Beauchamp
Apr 01 2018 11:31 PM

I can't help but look at Odorizzi and think of Scott Baker, the much lamented and unfairly treated starter... When Scott was rolling with his high fastball and solid strikeout rate, he was an extremely good pitcher.

 

Naturally, he earned the nickname "moonshot" because when things went badly, they really turned south for the guy.

 

But had Baker stayed healthy, I'm fully convinced he would have been a very good pitcher. And modern baseball thinking is kind of going that way with the high fastball that induces mostly quiet contact (and quite a few misses) with the occasional loud contact.

    • Twins33, brvama, Dantes929 and 3 others like this

The more the starters and bats can keep Rodney out of the game, the better.

    • Twins33, Dantes929, mikelink45 and 3 others like this
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Tommygun921
Apr 02 2018 05:33 AM
Will be interesting to see how the staff fares against another team. I suspect the O's may be a little all or none type of offensive team. Twins rotation should be much better this year no doubt. With this offense and improved bullpen it should be a fun summer. Once Morrison gets going it could get scary for the opposition!
    • mikelink45 likes this
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tarheeltwinsfan
Apr 02 2018 05:53 AM

With more hitters emphasizinghigher launch angles on their swings, the high fastball becomes a more effective pitch.  

    • Dantes929, blindeke, RegularJoe62 and 1 other like this

Haven't checked this, but I assume the Twins starting staff has the best ERA in the majors.Yes, I know it is only three games.I'll repeat that, it is only three games.But this was exciting.  

 

Were the first 8 innings from Berrios yesterday the best start of his career?Expect first game out he ran out of gas a bit in the 9th.  

 

I don't see any #5 pitchers in this group (once Santana is back).Rather see a couple #3's, a couple #2's and one legitimate ACE.  

 

Who knows, maybe this group will pitch the Twins to the promised land!

 

Now before responding to my excitement, please go back and read my second and third sentences! 

The starting rotation has given up zero home runs, a .102 BABIP, and has stranded 100% of the runners they've put on base so far. Those numbers aren't exactly sustainable...

 

I'm cautiously optimistic about the rotation, but I haven't seen enough to confidently say they are going to be above-average this year.

I'm pretty siked about this starting rotation.For the first time in a LONG time the Twins are strong 1-4.And they've got reinforcements just itching to get to the show and several guys on the mend from TJ.If Romero is really kicking butt and continues to do so in AAA.I'd like to see him get a shot at that fifth spot if Hughes falters.

I am enjoying this start and waiting until May to make any judgments.Are the Twins that good?Are the Orioles that bad?Next up the pirates who did a sell off so their expectations are lower too.We have to beat them, but we are still waiting for the real tests. 

Sure it's early days and no doubt there will be a few rough games ahead ... but wow! Very pleased to see the way the starters pitched the first three games. I'm, uh, feeling optimistic all of a sudden!

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birdwatcher
Apr 02 2018 08:52 AM

I just witnessed three games in a row where the Twin's starting pitchers were actually fun to watch pitch. I don't remember the last time I could say that.

    • Danchat and RegularJoe62 like this

Obviously, this absurd pitching is not sustainable.But it does set a great tone for the season for a team that hasn't exactly been stellar in the pitching department.

 

Also worth noting that the Twins have not yet made an error three games into the season.Another great tone-setter...

    • Danchat likes this
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yarnivek1972
Apr 02 2018 09:09 AM

I am enjoying this start and waiting until May to make any judgments. Are the Twins that good? Are the Orioles that bad? Next up the pirates who did a sell off so their expectations are lower too. We have to beat them, but we are still waiting for the real tests.


That has to be a question when an offense does that poorly in a series.

As has been mentioned: we’ll find out soon enough. Maybe not this week. Neither Pittsburgh or Seattle figure to be offensive juggernauts. The Astros are in town next week...
The last time the Twins had three starters consecutively go at least 6 scoreless was June 2014. Correia, Hughes, Gibson.
    • Twins33 and flpmagikat like this
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RegularJoe62
Apr 02 2018 10:28 AM

I'd like to see a few more starts before we declare these guys to be the Glavine, Smoltz, and Maddux of their generation, but that sure was a fun series to watch.

 

The last time the Twins had three starters consecutively go at least 6 scoreless was June 2014. Correia, Hughes, Gibson.

 

Must've been a strong year!;)

    • ashbury and bluechipper like this
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Kelly Vance
Apr 02 2018 11:05 AM

https://search.aol.c...510&action=view

 

 

 

For those already expecting or talking about playoffs (I'm one of them), here ya go.  

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Kelly Vance
Apr 02 2018 11:35 AM

This article jinxed Lance Lynn.  Grand Slam in the bottom of the first and three walks Yikes. 

I'm still not sold this isn't the same old Gibson; the command was bad no matter how many times Bert talked about being "effectively wild". A better teams makes him pay for those walks, I think. but who knows? Maybe me doubting him instead of advocating for it being his breakthrough year is all he needed to motivate him! :P

I heard Gibson say...... "bite me".

 

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Kelly Vance
Apr 02 2018 02:42 PM

 

I'm still not sold this isn't the same old Gibson; the command was bad no matter how many times Bert talked about being "effectively wild". A better teams makes him pay for those walks, I think. but who knows? Maybe me doubting him instead of advocating for it being his breakthrough year is all he needed to motivate him! :P

Remembering the not-too-distant past, I'm just glad he didn't give up 5 runs. Count your blessings. Maybe the kid has learned to pitch. But give a man his due. Because under the harsh proverbial rule that "You are only as good as your last outing," that last outing was pretty good. And, in all fairness, even his critics should say  "So far, so good." Because, so far its been real good. 

 

Way to go kid. 


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