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Twins: Likes and dislikes


FORT MYERS, Fla. -- What I like, and don't like, about the Twins:


 When Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer are healthy and swinging it, they remain as dangerous a duo as there is in the league. Each has won an AL MVP award (Morneau in 2006, Mauer in 2009) and the Twins will go as far as the M&M boys will take them.

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 Two experienced closers in Joe Nathan and Matt Capps. With Nathan returning from the Tommy John surgery that knocked him out for all of 2010, having Capps in the 'pen is a luxury. The Twins are happy with Nathan's progress so far and expect him to pitch often in 2011, but they still must be cautious and the days of Nathan pitching three or four consecutive days should be history -- at least, for awhile. This is where Capps comes in, because there will be some ninth innings this summer when manager Ron Gardenhire must look in a direction other than Nathan's.

 Denard Span's chances to have a bounce-back season. His batting average dropped 47 points, from .311 to .264, and his on-base percentage dipped from .392 to .331 in 2010. Span worked out hard this winter, looking to avoid late-season fatigue, and Gardenhire says he needs to do a better job of resting Span. Don't look for Span to be on the bench often. But don't look for him to match last season's career-high 705 plate appearances, either.

 The lineup is loaded. Outfielder Delmon Young is coming off a .298/21/112 season and is in a contract year toward free agency. We know what Michael Cuddyer and Jim Thome can do. And young third baseman Danny Valencia (.311, seven homers, 40 RBI in 85 games in '10) is a future star.


 Morneau's lingering post-concussion syndrome. He was told to skip TwinsFest this winter and continue his workouts, and he will not play in the first several Grapefruit League games. He seems a touch unsure of himself in his comeback. That this is all happening nearly eight months after his July 7 concussion is troublesome.

 Mauer taking a series of silicone injections in his surgically repaired left knee this spring to help lubricate it. He downplays the injections and was not happy they became public. But as valuable as Mauer is to the club, the demanding position he plays and the fact that he's entering Year One of his eight-year, $184 million deal ... hmmm.

 Francisco Liriano experiencing soreness in his shoulder early in the spring because he wasn't consistent with his offseason strengthening exercises. This doesn't signal maturity on Liriano's part. And that's not good. The Twins have nice starting pitching depth, but you do not win in the playoffs with a strike-throwing staff that can't get a strikeout when you must have one. Liriano is the one guy with pure stuff who can be nasty and dominant. They need him.

 The Twins lost bullpen mainstays Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier. Both will hurt, especially Guerrier. Gardenhire leaned heavily on him in late innings, handing Guerrier the ball 70 or more times in each of the last four consecutive seasons. Guerrier led the AL in appearances in 2009 (79) and 2008 (76). He had 74 last year. Gardenhire's security blanket is gone. The Twins are going to have to develop someone else as the year rolls along.


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