Continuing our preview of the American League Central's 2007 season are the Minnesota Twins.
After the heart-breaking loss of Francisco Liriano to a season-ending arm injury and Brad Radke to retirement, plenty of big questions surround the ALC Champion Twins' starting five.
Reigning Cy Young award winner, Johan Santana, will lead the rotation as he has for the past three-and-a-half seasons, followed by a lot of maybes. Ground ball pitcher, Carlos Silva, will be close behind if he can maintain his slider. Boof Bonser may have earned himself a spot with his performance late in the season last year, along with Matt Garza and possibly a reliever-turned-starter, Glen Perkins. Scott Baker may also get an opportunity to show improvement.
Adding a pitcher like Ramon Ortiz, who has a 79-76 career record during eight seasons in the big leagues, is a step in the right direction. Sidney Ponson will have a shot during his Spring Training invitation, as well.
The bullpen will consist mostly of familiar faces such as Juan Rincon, Pat Neshek and his crazy delivery, Jesse Crain, and dependable lefty Dennys Reyes, while it's business as usual for Joe Nathan in the closer spot.
The infield is set, with AL MVP Justin Morneau at first base, Luis Castillo at second, Nick Punto holding down third I guess, and Jason Bartlett at short stop. Newcomer Jeff Cirillo will most likely shift between backup up first and DH, with veteran Rondell White also seeing some time at the designated spot when not in left field or pushing his walker around the cubhouse. The club will rely on Luis Rodriguez to back up second base, and Rule 5 Draft pick Alejandro Machado and Alexi Casilla will give the team depth at shortstop.
AL Batting Champ Joe Mauer will lead the backstops with re-signed Mike Redmond at backup. Redmond has proven to be clutch at the DH spot, also, hitting .341 in 179 at-bats last year. In addition, how could I forget the lovable Matthew LeCroy, who has been reunited with the Twins as a backup catcher/designated hitter with an invitation to spring training.
Gold glover Torii Hunter will patrol center field once again, while Michael Cuddyer has a permanent spot in right field. Rondell will be vying for left with Jason Tyner and rookie Denard Span. Lew Ford will back things up.
That pesky designated hitter spot isn't locked up, so a lot of speculation still remains. Cirillo will have a shot at it, as will Jason Kubel, if his knees can recover.
Ron Gardenhire's Twins definitely have some tough competition to stay on top of the ALC, with Detroit and Chicago staying strong, and Cleveland and Kansas City adding some talent of their own this offseason.