Friday, April 1, 2011

Twins Opening Day 2011

Woke up this morning kind of conflicted. As I look out the window there are still hints of winter and there is a cold dampness in the air, but then I think wait a minute today is Opening day for the Twins and life is good. The Twins start the season on the road tonight in Toronto against the Blue Jays. One positive and something the Twins haven't been able to say going back to prior to the 2010 season opener is that they are 100% healthy. Everyone is back and expected to play tonight without exception.

Joe Nathan has fully recovered from Tommy John surgery and is on the road to being his old self. He may not be quite there physically but he is close and he has been working hard to get into game shape. The biggest hurdle for Nathan will be mental and trusting that his arm is actually stronger than it was before, he needs to avoid trying to overthrow or being too cautious. If he stays within himself everything should be fine. If the everyday grind gets to be too much too fast, well Matt Capps is always available to spell him when needed. While not a Joe Nathan he proved himself to be a very capable and effective closer for the Twins in 2010.

Justin Morneau is also back from the concussion he suffered last July sliding into 2nd base. He has been cleared to play by doctors and by all accounts was very effective in spring training, frequently knocking the stuffing out of the ball. Again with Justin it will be mostly mental and getting over the hurdle of potentially being hit in the head again. Having had multiple concussions myself I know it is a long and difficult process. You dont feel at all like yourself, things are foggy and you feel like everything is in slow motion, it can be difficult to focus and it is easy to lose a train of thought. For a baseball player with a ball being hurdled at you at 80+ MPH that is not a good combination. Justin will be wearing a new helmet with added protection that is rated to withstand a harder impact than the standard helmet worn by most players. In addition MLB just mandated baseline testing and the availability of a 7 day DL for concussions so they are finally taking it seriously. That way if he has a doubt or a minor setback he has options rather than being forced onto a long term DL.

As for Joe Mauer, everyone relax, he is fine. The media was blowing things out of proportion because of who Joe is (not that they would ever do that to promote themselves). Joe had a minor procedure to clean out his knee and is fully recovered. Due to the nature of his job and having to bend and be in a crouched position or on his knees frequently, it was done to relieve discomfort and help him be more effective. Now that Drew Butera has emerged as a solid defensive #2 catcher it will also be easier to spell Joe on occassion, either giving him a day off or DH'ing so his knees get a break.

With everyone healthy and some other important pieces back, 2011 figures to be a fun season for Twins fans. Once again everyone is picking either the Tigers or White Sox to win the division because of big name acquisitions. There is no doubt it will be a heated division race but the Twins are still the team to beat and are always there in September. A big name does not always translate to chemistry and success. As we have seen the last few seasons both the opposing teams seem to lack chemistry and have issues fighting through adversity, and the White Sox in particular are more likely to fight each other.

We're gonna win Twins!!

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