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Upbeat Outlook for Twins 2018 Season

 

A Tuesday notes column leading off with the Twins.

Optimism characterizes the outlook for the Twins’ 2018 regular season. Minnesota opens the season in Baltimore Thursday afternoon against the Orioles and Twins president Dave St. Peter told Sports Headliners earlier this month he is “bullish” about the team.

After last season’s club unexpectedly made the playoffs, the early offseason outlook for 2018 was hopeful for more success, but a series of promising personnel acquisitions, including during spring training, has left observers even more upbeat.

“I think we feel very good about our team,” St. Peter said. “We believe we have closed the gap to some extent with the Cleveland Indians at the top of our division. We certainly look to our club to be not just in the hunt for the division (title) but certainly the Wild Card going deep into the 2018 season.”

St. Peter spoke before Twins shortstop Jorge Polanco was suspended by Major League Baseball for the first 80 games because of a drug violation, but that shouldn’t reduce the optimism by much about the team. Veteran Eduardo Escobar, 29, provides experience at the position and playing a utility role last season produced career highs in home runs with 29 and RBI, 71.

Sports Illustrated’s preview issue has the Twins finishing 86-76 after last season’s 85-77 record. The magazine likes the club but reminds readers the pitching staff needs an ace in the starting rotation. S.I.’s candidate is Jose Berrios and his emergence could mean the Twins “will flirt with 90 wins,” according to the magazine.

For now, though, the publication believes the Twins will fall just short of taking the last wildcard spot in the playoffs. That position will go to the improved Angels with a predicted 89-73 record.

Berrios, 23, was impressive last season, with a 14-8 record and 3.89 ERA. He is scheduled to start Sunday in Baltimore in the finale of the three-game series against the Orioles.

Vegasinsider.com reported last Friday odds are 25/1 Berrios will win the 2018 American League Cy Young award, per the Las Vegas Westgate SuperBook. No other Twins and only nine other pitchers had better odds.

Newly signed Jake Odorizzi will be the Twins’ starting pitcher Thursday. The No. 2 starter for the Rays last season, Odorizzi is making his first MLB Opening Day start. Kyle Gibson starts for Minnesota Saturday in Baltimore, after Friday’s off day.

The Twins are opening on the road for the seventh time in nine seasons dating back to the first season at outdoor Target Field in 2010.

The weather forecast in Baltimore for Thursday is for 70 degrees and cloudy around game time, according to Accuweather.com.

Members of the U.S. gold-medal winning curling team will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at Target Field for the Twins’ home opener April 5. Minneapolis rapper Dessa will perform the National Anthem.

The IDS Building, Nicollet Mall, and the Target Corporate Building will be lit in Twins colors the week of April 2. The Lowry Avenue Bridge will be lit April 4 and 5, and the 35W Bridge April 5.

Minnesota’s home opener was announced as sold out on Monday. In eight home openers at Target Field the Twins have averaged 39,096.

Creativity in candidates is likely to be a priority when Gopher athletic director Mark Coyle searches to replace Don Lucia as hockey coach. Just look back at Coyle’s hiring of football coach P.J. Fleck who is skilled at promoting his program externally and internally including through social media, television and community volunteerism.

Gopher hockey fan Kirk Detlefsen bought 14 new season tickets for 2018-2019 last Tuesday after it was announced Minnesota will have a new coach. “I am optimistic ‘Pride on Ice’ will be back,” said the Lakeville resident who purchased four lower bowl season tickets and four club seats in 2017-2018.

Detlefsen, who has bought season tickets for more than 20 years, is renewing his tickets from last year along with buying the 14 new ones. He will gather with friends before next season and do a “ticket draft” to divide up the tickets. He had been doing that in the past too but found interest lacking. “Nobody wanted to go to games anymore,” he said.

Fleck will speak at the Minnesota High School Football Coaches Association’s Clinic April 6 at the DoubleTree Hotel in St. Louis Park. There will also be a panel discussion that evening with former Gopher coach Glen Mason, Vikings executive Kevin Warren, and former Vikings and Ravens center Matt Birk. More at Mnfootballcoaches.com.

Tracy Claeys

It will be interesting to follow the Washington State football program the next couple of seasons. Head coach Mike Leach is known as an offensive master but for years the Cougars have often struggled defensively. Now with former Gopher head football coach Tracy Claeys in Pullman, Leach has one of the best defensive minds in college football as his coordinator.

Eric Musselman, who nearly coached Nevada to the Final Four this year, might have been the Gopher coach had Richard Pitino turned the job down in the spring of 2013. It’s believed that Musselman was athletic director Norwood Teague’s next choice before hiring Pitino. At that time Musselman, who had never been a college head coach, was an assistant at Arizona State.

The Timberwolves (42-33) looked panicky in the closing minutes of last night’s 101-93 loss to the Grizzlies (20-54). The Wolves scored only 11 fourth quarter points in a loss that could contribute to not qualifying for the playoffs.

Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns has double-doubles in 62 games this season—the most in the NBA. Last night Towns had 15 points and 12 rebounds.

Becky Cantellano, who was the Executive Director for St. Paul Urban Tennis, left that organization this month to become ED at the United States Tennis Association Northern Section which promotes the sport in this region. She had been Director of Tennis Programs and Services at USTA Northern prior to joining St. Paul Urban in 2012.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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