Foul tip: Wait 'til last year!

Twins of 2006 starting to look just like the Twins of 2005

Going into tonight's game at the Dome, there's plenty of hand-wringing--in the daily newspapers, at least--about whether the Twins can overcome their 33-1 drubbing at the hands of Detroit last weekend. I'll humbly offer that that is the wrong question to consider.

We're one month into the season, a time when we can really take stock of this year's Twinkies. The real question is, now that the pitching is relatively back on track, are the Twins going to revert all the way back to 2005 form? If so, that's a shame, because that will make it hard to write off the team entirely.

Still, every indication this week was that the pitching's going to be stellar, and the hitting's going to suck, just like last year. (To add to the flashback feeling, both Cotton Joe Mays and Dougie Baseball made return appearances to the Dome this week.)

Santana, Radke and Silva all had excellent performances this week, and Juan Rincon, Joe Nathan and even Dennys Reyes looked unhittable. And for this, they were mostly rewarded with the Bats of Deafening Silence that has become the Twins' trademark in the last 12 months.

All of this makes for a rather torturous time watching this team--losing big can at least carry the welcome weight of diminished expectations. But like last night's game proved, most contests will ultimately be unsatisfying nailbiters, with the Twins failing to take exceptional pitching to the win column.

At any rate, here are some notables:

1. Bradke Ball takes a vacation. Just days after I called for the team to give the exhausted-looking Brad Radke a break in the rotation, he pitches a stellar game on Wednesday night, and manages to snap his streak of giving up a home run within the first three innings in every game this season. My cap's off to you, Brad, but as wildman and lifelong Royal fan Jack Sparks put it outside the Dome after the game: You pitched great against what might charitably be a called a Triple-A club.

2. Off-season upgrades? Any hopes I had for Ruben Sierra adding some grimace to this boyish outfit is gone now that he's torn a bicep and will be out indefinitely. And everyone knows that Rondell White, alas, is a total wash.

Still, that's not to say the Twins haven't improved in some places. I'm honestly starting to think Tony Batista is a good call at third base--he's more agile than I thought, and he has an amazingly consitent arm. Luis Castillo is looking like the frontrunner to be freakin' MVP of the team. And Reyes just may be the lefty reliever that finally pushed Francisco Liriano into the starting rotation. Upgrades, all of them--so why isn't the team improved?

3. The Gambler factor. Kenny Rogers was the darkhorse of the pitching staff when he was here with the Twins, and the team made a mistake of not trying to resigning him a couple years ago. He's tougher'n nails wherever he goes, and his career record is almost exactly the same as that of the vaunted Curt Schilling.

He's started off strong again this season (4-2, 2.59 ERA) and he's probably still bitter about not being asked back here, because that's just the kind of pill he is. All of this is a long way of saying that, with him on the mound tonight, the Twins will start this three-game series one in the hole.

Comments and reactions to this and the series are welcome all weekend long.

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