Behind Enemy Lines: Talking offseason moves with Twinkie Town

Bless You Boys

The Tigers are riding high off their first series win of the season and some unexpectedly delightful performances from their staff. As they invite another division rival club, the Minnesota Twins, into town, we wanted to know what to expect from the Twins.

TJ Gorsegner, site manager of the SB Nation Twins blog Twinkie Town, was kind enough to take some time to answer a few burning early-season questions about their new offseason pickups, and what the heck is going on with Josh Donaldson’s hair.

In return, we answered a few of their questions, so if you’d like to see the other half of this interview, you can find it here.

BYB: How would you describe the Twins offseason moves?

TJG: The Twins offseason was a lot of “we know this is a good team” moves. They didn’t add any major pieces, and let a few walk, but they did add some complementary players. The biggest signing is shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who boosts the infield defense. He is essentially pushing Jorge Polanco and Luis Arraez down the defensive spectrum, moving Polanco to second and Arraez to Marwin Gonzalez’ old super-sub role. With Josh Donaldson already hurt (again,) that depth and flexibility are coming in handy. On the other side of the equation, newcomers J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker add some veteran depth to the rotation, but basically replace Jake Odorizzi and Rich Hill with like-for-like. In the bullpen, its a similar situation, with Trevor May, Sergio Romo, and Tyler Clippard walking, but Hansel Robles and Alex Colome added over the offseason. The rest of the newcomers are generally triple-A or quad-A level depth, and none of them should appear this series except Kyle Garlick, who is a spring stud but has only been a late-game replacement so far.

BYB: A lot of the team’s core remained the same, so how are you feeling after the first series of the season?

TJG: I can’t help but feel good right now. If it wasn’t for one bad defensive play (throw to first, Alex!) in the ninth inning on opening day, the Twins would be undefeated, and that is against some very good pitching. They scored fifteen runs, mostly earned, and only gave up a couple earned runs, All three starters looked incredibly sharp considering it was the first series of the year. And Jose Berrios, especially was great. Byron Buxton left game three early with a non-COVID illness, but before that, he had gotten off to a MVP-caliber start. There were a lot of good signs on offense, and that’s without Josh Donaldson, and for the most part, Nelson Cruz. Its a long season, but what we have seen so far from the Twins suggests that the rest of the AL Central better bring their A-game to keep up.

BYB: Who surprised you the most, for better or worse, in spring training?

TJG: In a good way, I was most surprised by a player who didn’t even make the team, reliever Derek Law. The Twins will rotate guys in and out of bullpen based on usage, so Law is likely to still be an important name to know at times, and he was nearly perfect. For players who made the roster, Kyle Garlick put up great stats, and honestly forced Brent Rooker and Alex Kirilloff off the roster—both will be back, and Rooker already is at the moment, but Garlick deserved another look.

For players who surprised in a bad way—Max Kepler had a lousy spring. He seems to have turned it on at the right time though, with three opening day hits and after today’s game he is sitting at .286/.286/.500

BYB: What do you think will be Minnesota’s greatest strength this season?

TJG: If the Twins can keep guys healthy, depth will be a real asset. I’m not so sold that all three of Simmons, Polanco, and Donaldson will ever be healthy at the same time, and Buxton hasn’t stayed healthy in years. Matt Shoemaker, in the rotation, is equally questionable, and its been half a decade since Michael Pineda threw a full season. With that caveat, I think that depth, as positive as it is, will be tested, so I’ll give you a different answer.

I think the Twins bullpen, as oddly as it feels to say, will become a real strength. Taylor Rogers, Hansel Robles, and Alex Colome are all experienced closers with something to prove. Tyler Duffey is criminally underrated as well. Jorge Alcala throws some absolute gas as a change of pace. The Twins also have several guys waiting in Triple-A that will be swapped in and out based on injury, effectiveness, and usage. Rocco Baldelli has already shown that he is willing to play the situations and use his best relievers against the best match-ups, rather than saving them for the ninth inning.

BYB: What’s your boldest prediction for the Twins in 2021?

TJG: We’re going to finally win a damn playoff game.

Okay, with this roster, that probably isn’t a very bold prediction. Lets give you another one. I believe we will be having serious Cy Young discussions around this team—and there could be as many as four names mentioned in that conversation, though some of those names are more likely as others.

Kenta Maeda came in a distant number two last season behind Shane Bieber, and appears to be back in that form. He’s a guy who the Dodgers never really gave a fair shake, and seems to be thriving in Minnesota. Jose Berrios has been discussed as a borderline ace for years, but at age-27 is entering his prime and could easily take the next step—did you see his performance on Saturday. Michael Pineda has been as good as any pitcher in the game when available the last few years, but “when available” remains a huge caveat, and Randy Dobnak may be the story of the year, he’s starting in the pen, but also is the next-man-up for the rotation. His game is extremely groundball-heavy, but he has a great defense behind him. He also added a new slider this spring that is supposed to be incredibly nasty. With a new contract proving the team believes in him, all he needs to do to complete the cinderella story is keep working hard.

BYB: Which Tigers player will you be keeping your eye on this series?

TJG: Oh, Akil Baddoo, 100%. He was a guy we always liked as a Twins prospect, and while the depth in the outfield made losing him to the Rule-5 draft sting less, he probably would have already been considered the 4th or 5th outfielder on many teams. He’s a guy we haven’t seen since 2019, so there is a little mystery element there. His spring was great, and then the homer in his first at-bat just adds to the story.

BYB: Be honest, does Donaldson’s new hair remind you of Guy Fieri?

TJG: Honestly, I hadn’t noticed, but I went through some pictures of Donaldson, and I see where you are coming from. Fieri has more of a spikey-thing going on, while Donaldson seems to rock more of a Kentucky Waterfall still. Either way, I’d truly enjoy having a beer and a discussion with both guys.


Thanks so much to TJ for taking the time to chat with us. If you’d like to read more of his work, head on over to Twinkie Town.

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