The Minnesota Twins are over .500 and woke up this morning tied with the Tampa Bay Rays for the second wild card spot in the American League.
Think about that for a second. Who thought that would be possible this year? Nobody. And the sample size isn’t that small either. With 27 games under their belt, they are exactly one sixth of the way through their 2015 MLB schedule. But despite the early and unexpected success, not a lot has gone right for the team in the Twin Cities.
It all began just a few days before Opening Day when Ervin Santana, the team’s big offseason acquisition to a lackluster starting rotation, was suspended for the first 80-games of the season after testing positive for stanozolol. Minnesota has had the worst ERA from starting pitchers in each of the last two seasons and losing their projected second starter before he even threw a pitch was a massive blow that could have taken the Twins out of it before the year even began, especially after giving Santana a four-year, $54 million deal in free agency this winter.
With their second starter out until early July, the team got nothing out of their Opening Day starter in April. Phil Hughes went 0-4 with a 4.55 ERA in the season’s opening month after getting the nod to start off the season. His first start in May did give him his first victory of the season, but it also raised his season ERA above five as it took eight Twins runs to help him get the win. With Hughes struggling to reproduce on his successes from 2014 and Santana suspended, Minnesota has basically gotten no production from either of their projected first two starters on the year.
The team’s bullpen has been littered with injuries. Relivers Brian Duensing, Casey Fien and Tim Stauffer have all found themselves on the disabled list already this season, forcing the team to relay on many pitchers who began the season in the minor leagues.
The injury bug has also reached outside of the team’s bullpen and gotten to some of the hitters as well. After batting .194 through the team’s first 11 games, outfielder Oswaldo Arcia began to heat up and had hit safely in six straight games, raising his season average to .276, before finding the disabled list with a hip injury. Eduardo Nunez, a solid backup utility player who was 9-for-22 (.409) on the season, also was placed on the disabled list yesterday with an oblique strain.
Many of the team’s late roster moves in the spring have all seemed to backfire on them as well. The team optioned Aaron Hicks, the projected starting center fielder heading into camp, to the minors just days before the season began. This paved the way for Jordan Schafer to be the team’s opening day centerfielder. Schafer went on to hit .188 in April with just two extra base hits and no steals, after swiping 30 bases in 2014. Meanwhile, Aaron Hicks is currently leading the Rochester Red Wings (AAA) in RBI’s.
Switch-hitting designated hitter Kennys Vargas also batted below .200 in April while Josmil Pinto, another player who fought for that job in Spring Training, is batting .320 in Triple-A and is tied with Hicks for the Red Wings lead in runs batted in.
The list of things that have gone wrong for the Minnesota Twins so far this year goes on and on but here they are having won eight of their last 11 and looking like a much-improved baseball team. With endless chaos surrounding this team, to see them put a string of wins together has been a lot of fun and the team has been exciting to watch for the first time in a few years.