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Twins’ Antony: ‘We were trying to give money away’

USA TODAY Sports The Minnesota Twins are counting on in-house options such as left fielder Oswaldo Arcia to improve the offense after the team struck out on free agent signings.

By Brian Murphy

St. Paul Pioneer Press

FORT MYERS, Fla. — A week after openly criticizing Twins hitters for their meek production, assistant general manager Rob Antony on Wednesday lamented the power outage that has defined Minnesota’s spring training.

The Twins rank 28th of 30 major league teams with 12 home runs this spring.

On Wednesday, Oswaldo Arcia blasted a solo home run against the Pirates at Hammond Stadium to tie him with Brandon Waring as the only Minnesota players with multiple homers — and Waring was reassigned to minor league camp March 16 during the second round of cuts.

“Has anybody really impressed?” Antony asked rhetorically before the game. “I read clips of some of the other teams, and a guy hit his fifth home run of the spring. We usually have a guy like that who does that. We haven’t had anybody that’s really put on a show. It’s been awfully quiet on that side of the game.”

In 2013, the Twins hit 151 home runs, led by Brian Dozier’s 18 — mostly from the leadoff spot — to rank 18th in the majors.

Antony pushed back against any notion the Twins’ commitment to rebuilding their starting rotation, including a combined $72 million investment to sign free agents Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes, affected their ability to acquire better hitters last off-season.

“We didn’t have nearly as much luck on the position players. They went elsewhere,” he said. “But we also know and understand there are guys that need to take a step forward,” he added.

The team is banking on more power this year from Trevor Plouffe and Arcia (14 homers each last season), plus a bounce back year from Josh Willingham, whose homers dipped to 14 from a career-high 35 in 2012.

“We believe it will improve, and it has to improve, but I wouldn’t say there wasn’t a sense of urgency on the offensive part of things,” Antony said. “I think we tried to address things. I wouldn’t say we solely went into the offseason saying we just need to get two or three starting pitchers and we’ll be right where we want to be. That wasn’t the case.”

The Twins pursued catcher A.J. Pierzynski and reportedly offered him $16 million over two years before the veteran signed with Boston. Antony said the club expected to open the season with a bigger payroll, which will be about $85 million when rosters are set Sunday.

“We had flexibility. We were trying to give money away,” he said. “Some players didn’t take it. They signed with other people.”

The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.