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Twins GM Says Club in Test Mode

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April 30, 2019


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The Minnesota Twins have an interesting schedule with home games going on now against the Houston Astros and starting on Friday in New York against the Yankees. Those two opponents are probably the best the Twins have played this season and are among the favorites to represent the American League in the World Series.

Twins general manager Thad Levine and chief baseball officer Derek Falvey will be scrutinizing how their club plays in this seven-game stretch that started last night with a 1-0 Minnesota win against Houston. “I think this is a great test for our team,” Levine told Sports Headliners yesterday.

Falvey & Levine

The Twins earned one victory in three games against the Astros last week in Houston. Although the Twins won last night, they don’t have to come up with a winning record between now and next Monday to win Levine’s favor. “I think it’s how you play the game and how competitive we were in those games,” he said.

Levine will be looking at how the team responds not only on the field but in the clubhouse. He will talk to manager Rocco Baldelli and the coaches to get a “feel for the how team played.” He will also be evaluating individual player development in the two series.

While the GM said games against the Astros and Yankees won’t provide any “definitive conclusions” about the 2019 Twins, Levine will learn more about his 17-9 club that has won eight of its last 10 games. The Twins are among the surprise teams in the big leagues, although six of the wins have come against the woeful Baltimore Orioles.

The homer-happy Twins have started the season with momentum, particularly impressing with run-scoring. After last night’s 1-0 win and home run by Ehire Adrianza, Minnesota has 50 home runs this season—the most in franchise history through April 29.

Levine refers to home runs as the most “expeditious way to score” and the club’s front office was aggressive during the offseason in acquiring players who can hit with power. But the number that interests him the most is run differential. The Twins are a plus-28 against opponents and Levine said a club needs to be “at least in the 50 to 60 range” to end a season with over 90 wins and gain “playoff relevance.”

Falvey and Levine weren’t as active in the pitcher market during the offseason as they were in acquiring position players and DH specialist Nelson Cruz. However, the Twins did add closer Blake Parker who has been difficult for opponents to hit and already has saved six games for Minnesota. The front office also added starter Martin Perez who has won three games for the Twins.

While Levine is optimistic about his team, he looks at the 162-game schedule and knows there are 137 more games to be played. That’s a lot of baseball.

“I think on one side of the coin we are not drawing any conclusions,” he said. (“But) we are optimistic. We are encouraged by what we have seen. The reality is we have banked the wins right now. Every win counts the same. …”

Worth Noting

Minnesota native Matt Birk played center for 15 years in the NFL with the Vikings and Ravens. The former All-Pro said Vikings No. 1 draft choice Garrett Bradbury, the center from North Carolina State, held his own in college playing against Clemson’s famed defensive line that included three players drafted in the first round last week before Minnesota’s pick at No. 18 with Bradbury. “…Playing against that Clemson D-line, that’s probably as close as you can get to playing against an NFL front in college,” Birk told Sports Headliners.

Many positives have been written about Bradbury, but a concern of some observers is his relatively short arms, measuring 31 and ¾ inches. Arm length and extension are a factor in blocking pass rushers, but Birk isn’t one to go overboard regarding measureables.

Birk said, “Players come in all shapes and sizes. Everybody’s gotta kind of figure out their own style. He was obviously an effective player in college. At the end of the day, it’s can you block the guy you’re supposed to block? …”

Spring Lake Park alum and Blaine native E.J. Ejiya has signed with the Baltimore Ravens as a free agent. The North Texas linebacker was second in program history in career tackles for loss (40.5). He is the school leader in single season tackles for loss (25.0 in 2018), and he was a first team USA All-Conference selection in 2018.

Former Gopher basketball guard Keith Young, part of the 1972 Big Ten championship team, has self-published a print-on-demand book: Minnesota’s Big Ten Champions, Losing Is Worth Than Death. The 1972 team was a surprise champion and overcame significant obstacles including after the infamous Minnesota-Ohio State brawl.

The Minnesota United ownership group paid a $100 million MLS expansion fee and began play in the soccer league in 2017. Now the MLS is asking for $200 million for future expansion franchises because of the fast rising interest in professional soccer in the United States.

By comparison, the Minnesota Wild NHL expansion franchise cost $80 million in 1997. The Minnesota Timberwolves NBA expansion club cost $32.5 million in the late 1980s.

Advance wagering begins Thursday at Canterbury Park on the 145th Kentucky Derby from Churchill Downs. The most famous horse race in America is Saturday in Louisville, with post time at 5:50 p.m. CDT. Canterbury Park’s first two days of live racing will be Friday night and Saturday.

The Shakopee track’s 66-meet schedule will again be enhanced by promotions including non-wagering dog races in May (English Bulldogs), June (Basset Hounds), July (Wiener Dogs) and August (Corgis). Extreme Race Day featuring Ostrich and Camel races isn’t part of the promotional lineup this year.

The Gustavus Adolphus men’s tennis program hasn’t lost an MIAC regular season match since April, 1986. The Gusties have won 52 league titles including this year, and on Thursday will be in the conference’s playoffs against today’s (Tuesday) winner of the Macalester and Bethel match.

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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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