01/31/2003 2:10 pm ET
Twins Spring Training rundown
Main components that led to playoffs still in place
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
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Bill Hammond Stadium
94-67, first in AL Central
2002 Hitting Leaders
(min. 200 at-bats)
Avg.: Jacque Jones, .300
OBP: Bobby Kielty, .405
SLG: Torii Hunter, .524
Runs: Jones, 96
RBIs: Hunter, 94
Hits: Jones, 173
2B: Jones/Hunter, 37
3B: Cristian Guzman/A.J. Pierzynski, 6
HR: Hunter, 29
SB: Hunter, 23
2002 Pitching Leaders
(min. 30 IP)
IP: Rick Reed, 188
W: Reed, 15
L: Eric Milton, 9
Win %: LaTroy Hawkins, 6-0, 1.000
S: Eddie Guardado, 45
ERA: J.C. Romero, 1.89
K: Johan Santana, 137
K/9: Santana, 11.38
WHIP: Hawkins, 0.97
Projected Starting Lineup
LF Jacque Jones
SS Cristian Guzman
CF Torii Hunter
DH Matthew LeCroy
3B Corey Koskie
1B Doug Mientkiewicz
C A.J. Pierzynski
2B Luis Rivas
1. Brad Radke
2. Eric Milton
3. Joe Mays
4. Rick Reed
5. Kyle Lohse
LH setup man: J.C. Romero
RH setup man: LaTroy Hawkins
Closer: Eddie Guardado
Spring Cleaning: Five questions that need to be answered
1. Who will emerge as the starting right fielder?
Michael Cuddyer proved himself well in the ALDS by hitting .385 vs. Oakland and likely enters camp as the leader for the starting spot. Ron Gardenhire has professed his desire in the past that Cuddyer needs to get plenty of at-bats. But Bobby Kielty and Dustan Mohr are stronger defensively and with a combined 24 home runs last season, are not liabilities with the bat either. They will both likely hustle and perform well enough to at least make the decision much more difficult for Gardenhire.
2. Can Radke, Mays and Milton rebound from injury plagued 2002?
When healthy, the Twins possess one baseball's best rotations. Brad Radke's strong postseason performances showed that he was back from the groin injury that marred his regular season. Joe Mays and Eric Milton had some stellar outings also in the playoffs, but lacked consistency after returning from the disabled list during the regular season. Mays had off-season surgery to remove bone chips and will have to show he is 100 percent again. If so, both he and Milton will need to find their groove again heading into Opening Day.
3. Where does Johan Santana fit in?
The left-handed pitcher who turns 24 in March can be both a strong starter and reliever. He can throw a variety of tough pitches, but has the tendency to try and use them all at once, which often gives him high pitch counts. Although he was recalled at the end of May, he still led the club with 137 strikeouts in just 108 innings. Because he provides an extra lefty threat in relief, Santana will likely begin the '03 season in the bullpen. However, Gardenhire would not hesitate to insert him into the rotation if someone gets injured or falters.
4. Will Matthew LeCroy successfully replace David Ortiz as the DH?
All signs point to LeCroy being capable of becoming the everyday DH. When getting a regular number of at-bats, he was able to produce hits. Getting 500 at-bats at the Major League level would be the ultimate test if he can do the job. He adds needed power from the right side of the plate to supplement Torii Hunter in the lineup. He went through four separate recalls from Triple-A last year and still made contributions for Minnesota when called upon. The job appears to be his to lose, but if he can't seize the moment, he could end up splitting the duties with Kielty.
5. Can Doug Mientkiewicz and Corey Koskie return to form offensively?
Nagging injuries and slumps left the corner infielders with down production at the plate in '02. Both appear to be healthy again and poised to rebound in '03. The Twins will be looking for Koskie to reach the 25 homers, 100 RBI plateaus he achieved in '01. If Mientkiewicz can hit .280 with 15-20 homers and 85-95 RBIs, it would be a successful season.
New Faces: Players acquired via trade or free agency
RHP Jose Cabrera -- Veteran reliever with postseason experience that was signed to minor-league contract. If he makes the club, he will fill the void left by the departures of former relievers Bob Wells and Mike Jackson.
RHP Mike Fetters -- The righty is a well-traveled veteran that also is experienced in the playoffs. His ability to get strikeouts made an attractive sign for the Twins' brass. He also has a chance to make the club in a middle relief role.
IF Chris Gomez -- Veteran infielder who could be counted on to play shortstop, second base or third base off the bench. Signed to a minor-league deal, he would be insurance if one of the starters goes down.
IF Jose Morban -- Taken in the Rule 5 draft from the Rangers in December, Morban must remain on the Twins 25-man roster all season or he could be sent back to Texas for $25,000. He batted .266 with eight homers, 66 RBIs
and 27 steals for Class-A Charlotte in the Florida State League in '02. GM Terry Ryan likes Morban's athletic ability at shortstop, especially on AstroTurf. To make the Twins, he will also have to show he can play second and third base.
David Ortiz -- The often injured but capable DH was released over the winter. He signed with the Red Sox in January.
Bob Wells -- The right-hander ate up innings but would have been too expensive to keep in '03. He was allowed to become free agent and signed a minor-league contract with the Devil Rays.
Mike Jackson -- His leadership was partly credited with the bullpen's surprising turnaround last year. But his age and high price made him expendable. He signed a minor-league contract with the Diamondbacks in late January.
Returning from InjuryRHP Brad Radke -- The Twins' ace missed 2
1/2 months with a groin pull. He appeared to be back to form during the playoffs.
LHP Eric Milton -- The hard-throwing left-hander missed a month late last season after having surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his left knee. The team doctor says some swelling remains, but that it isn't causing any pain or limitations.
RHP Joe Mays -- After missing three months early with an elbow injury, Mays returned in the summer with flashes of brilliance mixed in with some rather iffy outings. He had off-season surgery to clean out loose particles from the right elbow and all eyes will be watching to see how he responds to a new season.
RHP Kyle Lohse -- The fifth starter had minor knee surgery to repair cartilage damage in the off-season. He is expected to be 100 percent when Spring Training begins.
New Kids on the Block: Prospects to watchOF Michael Restovich -- The Minnesota native got a taste of big league life with his September call-up last season. He has a powerful bat and could contend for a reserve spot, or return to Triple-A.
OF Michael Ryan -- Although not a prized outfield prospect like Cuddyer and Restovich, Ryan is a left-handed hitter that led the Triple-A club last season with 31 homers and 101 RBIs in 2002.
OF Lew Ford -- Ford is coming off a strong season split between Double-A and Triple-A where he batted well over .300. He was performing well in winter leagues (.302, five homers, 15 RBIs) before play was abruptly halted in Venezuela.
RHP Juan Rincon -- The middle reliever that can also make starts has bounced between minors and Major Leagues in past two seasons. Rincon has a chance to make club in bullpen in roles vacated by Bob Wells and Mike Jackson.
1B Justin Morneau -- Morneau is one of the Twins' top hitting prospects and part of the Twins' 40-man roster for the first time. He hit 16 homers in a pitching-strong Double-A Eastern League for New Britain and will likely jump to Triple-A in '03. He is being groomed as the organization's first baseman of the future, but still is a year or two away.
On the ReboundDoug Mientkiewicz -- The first baseman batted just .261 in '02 after batting .306 in '01. Although his numbers with runners in scoring position were satisfactory, the Twins need more overall production at the plate. His average needs to climb at least 30 points and an 85-95 RBI is not out of the question. Defensively, Mientkiewicz remains one of the best in the game at his position. With the aforementioned Morneau waiting in the wings down the road, 2003 could become a critical season for Mientkiewicz, who is working under a new one-year contract.
Corey Koskie -- The third baseman's RBI total dropped by 34 from '01 to '02 and he hit nine fewer home runs. The club will be looking for him to be a home run and RBI leader once again and return to the steady progress he had made since breaking in during the 1998 season.
The Bottom LineThe Twins are in a unique and enviable situation where they have few question marks to answer and even fewer holes to fill on the roster. Most of the ingredients that made them a playoff team in 2002 are back for 2003. Now they have to concentrate on staying healthy and try to make what can be an awkward transition -- from being an up-and-coming team to one that is playoff-tested with a target on its back. The window of opportunity to stay on top for small-market teams like Minnesota doesn't usually last extremely long. Therefore, 2003 could be a very pivotal and crucial season for the direction of the franchise.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com and can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org. This report was not subject to the approval
of Major League Baseball or its clubs.