Can Twins save Gardy from the ax this season?
No one who has ever seen Ron Gardenhire would say he has a turkey neck, but whatever he has, it will be on the chopping block this season.
The same guy who led the Twins to an AL Central title and won the American League Manager of the Year award in 2010 is on the spot this year. Never mind the fact this guy has only had three losing teams in his 11 years at the helm. Never mind the fact his teams have won six AL Central titles. Gardy's Twins have to start producing again or the ax will fall.
When the Twins moved into Target Field in 2010, the fact they had a beautiful new stadium was supposed to herald another golden age. We were told before construction began it would be so, and when they won the division flag the faithful nodded in approval. The prophets were vindicated.
And now it has come to pass that Gardenhire is the manager of a team many predict will finish in the division cellar for the third straight year. The Twins may have been injured-riddled in 2011, but the failure of 2012 can only be attributed to their sorry pitching.
Teams that post a 4.77-earned run average, like the Twins did last year, belong in the cellar. They should be kept well out of the range of hitters like Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, Adam Dunn, Josh Hamilton and Billy Butler.
Gardenhire lost most of his staff when the 2012 season ended. The fact pitching coach Rick Anderson survived the purge surprised many of us who thought he was more closely responsible for the wretched season than some of the coaches who were canned or demoted.
Now Gardenhire and Anderson must build a contender from talent general manager Terry Ryan has assembled in Fort Myers. Do they actually have the horses to do it? The answer might easily be found in prayer instead of pitching.
The ace of their staff did not even come north with the team last spring. Scott Diamond managed to win 12 of his 27 starts, and by the end of the season was the closest thing the Twins had to a franchise pitcher.
Diamond has been joined in the off-season by the best starting pitchers the Twins could afford. Kevin Correia comes aboard with some good journeyman stats. Apparently, the Twins think a lot of former New York Mets hurler Mike Pelfrey because they are paying him more than $5 million this season ¬- this for a guy who did not pitch an inning in 2012 because of Tommy John surgery. They sent outfielder Ben Revere to Philly for right-handed starter Vance Worley. He posted an 11-3 record for the Phils in 2011, but he was a lackluster 6-9 last year. Worley is just 25, so his best years should be ahead of him.
The Twins do have some prospects who they believe can pitch: Kyle Gibson, Cole DeVries and Liam Hendriks are on the staff as spring training begins. Gibson, 25, was a Tommy John surgery victim in 2012, and DeVries, 28, was brought up during the season and went 5-5 with a 4.11 ERA. Hendriks was with the team on opening day, and the Twins had him penciled in to start.
It did not work out too well for the 24-year-old right-hander, as he went 1-8 with a terrible 5.59 ERA.
It looks like another patchwork effort on the hill at this point.
Let us hope for Gardenhire's sake the Twins surprise us, and do not let yourself be too discouraged by the pitching. The Twins have some talented kids like Aaron Hicks, Joe Benson and Pedro Florimon in camp trying to earn starting jobs. They have two former MVPs in Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau.
They have the bat of Mike Cuddyer's more-than-adequate replacement, Josh Willingham, ready to rock. They have a couple guys named Trevor Plouffe and Chris Parmelee who are expected to show some power at the plate, and do not forget Ryan Doumit, who hit 18 home runs last year and should be able to jack a few more this year. If Minny's hitters can score enough runs, the 2013 season Gardenhire may be able to bring his team out of the cellar.