Twins make moves to stamp 99 losses as an aberration
By Dave Campbell
AP Sports Writer
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Twins obviously haven't let a 99-loss season push them toward rebuilding mode.
Considering the signings of role-playing veteran free agents Jamey Carroll and Ryan Doumit, the retention of closer Matt Capps and the pursuit of outfielder of Michael Cuddyer, general manager Terry Ryan and the rest of the organization clearly haven't given up on returning to playoff contention in 2012.
These moves didn't energize the fan base or sell extra season tickets. This plan is simply a reflection of the club's belief that the 2010 version of the Twins was more realistic than the 2011 squad.
"Well, you can't change the world. But we're a pretty good baseball team a couple of years ago," manager Ron Gardenhire told reporters in Dallas this week at baseball's winter meetings. "Even coming out of spring training, it just kind of went 'kapooey' with injuries. I think if we get our players back on the field you'll have a pretty good baseball team."
That starts, of course, with catcher Joe Mauer and first baseman Justin Morneau, who missed weeks at a time with health problems.
Capps said he believes the Twins are crafting a roster that can compete even if the two stars are unable to play a full schedule again.
"You put that much emphasis on two players, and when they go down you're going to struggle. It's just the way it goes," Capps said. "It's nobody's fault. It's just the circumstances we had to deal with. If we can keep Mauer and Morneau on the field I think we're going to be just fine, and Terry Ryan is doing a nice job making sure that if they're not there we're still going to be competitive."
Doumit, who batted .303 last season for the Pittsburgh Pirates, can play catcher, first base and the outfielder if necessary, but most importantly he's a backup for Mauer that won't force the Twins to give up on offensive production with. Carroll hit .290 last year for the Los Angeles Dodgers and is in line to be the starting shortstop.
Signing Capps for $4.5 million this season was the most obvious sign the Twins had no interest in blowing up their roster and starting from scratch. Teams that aren't in contention don't need closers, but both the Twins and Capps expressed confidence his 2011 performance was a hiccup.
"He's a gamer and a first-class person, and I'm very excited," Gardenhire said.
Capps, in a phone interview Thursday, said the forearm that bothered him at times last year was given a "clean bill of health" by team doctors this week.
"I was hoping for this opportunity to go back to Minnesota and kind of finish on a better note or leave a better feeling for everybody for who I am and what I can do," Capps said. "I just felt like last year was one of those years where things didn't work out so well."
Capps said he's confident, too, that the Twins are track to return to contention -- rather than try to get younger around their Mauer-Morneau core.
"I think they're making the right moves and getting the right pieces to help the ballclub," he said. "I think the Twins can be a very competitive team."
Cuddyer and Jason Kubel are both free agents, and Ryan acknowledged this week the Twins won't be able to bring back both of them. But they've made no secret of their desire to keep his leadership, steady production and versatility, and Ryan told reporters in Dallas he expected resolution on Cuddyer's status in the coming days.
The Twins also wrapped up their action at the winter meetings by acquiring right-hander Daniel Turpen from the Colorado Rockies and selecting right-hander Terry Doyle from the Chicago White Sox in the major league portion of the Rule 5 draft.
Turpen was the player to be named in the trade of right-hander Kevin Slowey to the Rockies. The 25-year-old will be assigned to Triple-A Rochester's roster. He went 2-4 with a 4.83 ERA with 11 saves in 48 appearances for Double-A Tulsa last season.
Doyle went 1-5 with a 2.84 ERA with 103 strikeouts and 49 walks in 73 innings and 11 starts for Class A Winston-Salem before moving up to Double-A Birmingham. The 26-year-old went 7-5 with a 3.24 ERA and 22 walks and 73 strikeouts in 100 innings and 15 starts there. He must make the team out of spring training or be sent back to the White Sox, unless they make a deal.