Spring Snapshot: Liriano still could be ace up the Twins sleeves

Every day in spring training until we're finished with the entire league, Big League Stew takes a brief capsule look at each team that we visit in Florida and Arizona. Next up are the Minnesota Twins, who are bound for a new home.


2009 RECORD 87-76/1st in AL Central

BIG ACQUISITIONS Orlando Hudson(notes) at second base and J.J. Hardy(notes) at shortstop give the Twins a new keystone combo and should help the team score more runs. Jim Thome(notes) was a steal in free agency from the White Sox. With Thome, Justin Morneau(notes), Joe Mauer(notes) and Jason Kubel(notes), the Twins do not lack for lefty thunder.

BIG DEPARTURES Carlos Gomez(notes) went to Milwaukee in the Hardy trade, which might be steal of the offseason if Hardy bounces back. Orlando Cabrera(notes), had he stayed, would have given them an Orlando-to-Orlando double play combination. Pity.

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1. Moving outside to Target Field, how much will they miss the unique home-field of the Metrodome? I asked Michael Cuddyer(notes) this question and he said: "Eh, the only thing that's really going to be gone is the Teflon roof. I think the thing that makes a home-field advantage is the excitement of the fans and we're still going to have that —if not more excitement. They're going to be just as rowdy. ... I think a big, BIG advantage went away when we got that field turf. The old spongy turf, teams weren't used to playing on something like that."

2. How cool would it be if the AL Central took 163 games to resolve for a third straight season? It would be great fun for all of us, but not necessarily the Twins. They've already been there and done that the past two seasons. Unless ...

"If we really are sucking in the first half of the season let's hope we can (come back) and get it to a one-game playoff," Gardenhire said. "We'll let you know."

3. Will left-hander Francisco Liriano(notes) take a big leap forward? He probably has the best stuff on the team, but his maturation process has been slowed in part by a slow recovery from Tommy John surgery in 2006. He doesn't have to be Johan Santana(notes), but it would be great if he could just be Francisco Liriano. The early signs are promising.

4. Who, again, is playing third base? That would be Nick Punto(notes), an original piranha. Adrian Beltre(notes) would have been a great fit, but he was too costly of an option on the Scott Boras free-agent caravan. The Twins would rather not spend if they don't have to — and they get away with it a lot — but they left a gaping hole in the lineup, with apologies to Captain Scrappy (Punto).

5. How will the Joe Mauer contract situation get resolved? Prediction, based on pure speculation: The club will announce a nine-year, $183-million contract on opening day. The Twins have to spend money here. There's no way around it. I mean, they might as well move the franchise back to D.C. if they don't re-sign Mauer.

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