The Free Press, Mankato, MN

January 14, 2013

Optimism reigns as Twins Winter Caravan rolls into Mankato

By Jim Rueda
The Free Press

MANKATO — Nobody has to tell manager Ron Gardenhire or the Minnesota Twins front office that the team needs to play better this season.

 The Twins limped to the 2012 finish line with a 66-96 record, scoring just 4.3 runs per game while giving up 5.1. The club's injury-riddled mound crew went through 25 pitchers, including back-up catcher Drew Butera who was called upon to pitch one inning of relief.

"There's no question our focus this offseason was pitching," Twins' assistant general manager Rob Antony said Monday, during a 2013 Twins Winter Caravan tour stop at the Kato Entertainment Center. "We think our offense will be OK with guys like Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau and Josh Willingham.

"We really needed to work on our starting pitching and that's why we went out and got guys like Vance Worley and Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey. We feel they give our coaching staff some improved arms to work with."

Avery Miller, an 11-year-old from North Mankato, was in attendance Monday and predicted the Twins will be better this year.

"They'll be improved but I'm not sure how much," said the Garfield Elementary student. "I haven't been following the moves they made in the offseason too much but I will when the season gets closer."

Miller's friend, a 12-year-old from Mankato, also believes the team will surpass what it did in 2012.

"They'll make the playoffs this year," said Bryant Brunz, who was attending his third Twins Caravan. "I think the best move they made was getting rid of (Francisco) Liriano. Mauer's going to have to get hot, too."

In addition to Antony, Monday's tour stop included Gardenhire, infielder Brian Dozier, former Twins player Terry Steinbach and broadcaster Dick Bremer. Gardenhire agreed with Antony that pitching has been the team's priority since the 2012 season ended.

"We had to trade some good players in Denard Span and Ben Revere to try to bolster our pitching staff but that's the way it works," Gardenhire said. "If you want to get something good you have to trade something good. We're going to have about 34 pitchers down in spring training so we'll get a chance to look at a lot of people and try to come up with our best staff."

The Twins are scheduled to open spring training in Fort Myers, Fla., on Tuesday, Feb. 12. The spring training home opener is slated for 12:05 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 24, at Hammond Stadium.

Minnesota opens the regular season at home this year against the Detroit Tigers. Opening day is Monday, April 1, at Target Field.