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4 MINNESOTA TWINS

March 12, 1996
March 12, 1996

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March 12, 1996

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Scouting Reports

4 MINNESOTA TWINS

The Twins have had one good result and one bad result when they
have brought accomplished veterans home to the Twin Cities. In
1991 St. Paul native Jack Morris arrived at the Metrodome and
helped carry Minnesota from last place to the world
championship. In 1993 Dave Winfield, another St. Paul native,
returned and collected his 3,000th hit, but the Twins made a
swan dive in the standings during his stay.

This is an article from the March 12, 1996 issue

So what will happen to the Twins now that Paul Molitor, yet
another St. Paul native, has returned to his roots? If the
39-year-old veteran stays in Minnesota more than one season, he
should, like Winfield, get his 3,000th hit; but the chances of
Molitor's Twins' repeating what Morris's did, winning the World
Series, are as slim as Kate Moss.

Molitor, the former Blue Jay who was the MVP of the '93 World
Series, floundered early last year before rallying to finish
with respectable numbers. But solid stats aren't the only reason
Minnesota signed the free agent to a $2 million contract. "Paul
is one of those people whose leadership starts in the clubhouse,
and he takes it out to the field, too," says Twins manager Tom
Kelly. The question is whether Molitor will take the field at
all, however: He is expected to play first base, but if his
right shoulder, which troubled him in 1995, acts up again, he
will be moved to DH.

But Molitor can't do much for Minnesota's most glaring weakness,
its pitching. The Twins' staff ERAs from the past two
seasons--5.76 in 1995, 5.68 in 1994--both rank among the 10
worst of this century. To help, Minnesota signed free agent Rick
Aguilera, who was the team's closer for 5 1/2 seasons before
being traded to Boston last July. But in this stint in the Twin
Cities, he will move out of the bullpen and into the rotation.

Aguilera was 11-3 as a starter for the Mets in 1987, but he
hasn't started a game in six years. Nevertheless, the Twins are
counting on the 34-year-old righthander to be their ace, in
addition to serving as a mentor to younger pitchers.

One youngster Minnesota has high hopes for is Frankie Rodriguez,
whom the team acquired from the Red Sox in exchange for Aguilera
last summer. Rodriguez, who switched from shortstop to the mound
in 1992, is still learning how to pitch, but he has an excellent
fastball and should benefit from having Aguilera around.

Another familiar figure returning to the Metrodome is Kirby
Puckett, who was hit in the face by a fastball from Cleveland's
Dennis Martinez in the Twins' final home game last year. Puckett
has recovered, and he is still a top-notch run producer,
although his defense is not what it once was because his speed
has waned. In fact, he may see some time at DH in addition to
playing rightfield.

The Twins are counting on 24-year-old Matt Lawton to prowl
center and provide some speed on the bases. In 21 games with
Minnesota, he hit .317. If Lawton isn't ready to face big league
pitching over a full season, Rich Becker, who batted .237 and
had eight steals in a frustrating rookie season, and free-agent
signee Roberto Kelly, a former All-Star who played for the Expos
and the Dodgers in '95, are standing by.

Leftfield is a strong spot. After starting 1995 parking cars at
a Las Vegas casino, Marty Cordova ended up as American League
Rookie of the Year. He is a terrific athlete, and if he improves
on hitting the cutoff man and running the bases, he'll be a
terrific player, too.

The Twins already have a terrific player at second base. Chuck
Knoblauch has hit for a higher average than Roberto Alomar each
of the past two years, and he has also shown increasing power:
Going into the 1995 season, Knoblauch had hit a total of 10 home
runs over four years; he hit 10 after the '95 All-Star break
alone. Minnesota is also looking for power from free-agent
signee Dave Hollins. After the Red Sox acquired the third
baseman from the Phillies last July, he played just five games
before breaking his wrist and missing the rest of the year.

Although Minnesota tied Toronto for the worst record in baseball
last season, things are looking up: The Twins are a better team
entering spring training than they were at the end of last
season. And the main reason for that is Molitor.

"Signing Paul is just the start as we try to piece together the
organization," says general manager Terry Ryan. "We've gone
through rough times, but hopefully this will get us to the point
where we can step forward again."

--M.M.

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER Puckett's defensive skills may be sliding, but the Twins can still use his offense. [Kirby Puckett in game]

BY THE NUMBERS

1995 Team Statistics (AL rank in parentheses)

Batting Average .279 (4)
Home Runs 120 (13)
ERA 5.76 (14)
Fielding Pct. .981 (8)

Power Shortage

The Twins hit 90 fewer home runs than they allowed last season.
Despite the fact that the schedule was shortened to 144 games
because of the strike, that's the largest such difference in the
history of the major leagues. Only five other clubs have allowed
75 or more homers than they hit.

Worst Home Run Differential

Hit Allowed Diff.
1995 Twins 120 210 -90
1962 Athletics 116 199 -83
1980 Mets 61 140 -79
1970 Dodgers 87 164 -77
1986 Cardinals 58 135 -77
1956 Athletics 112 187 -75

PLAYER TO WATCH

Dave Stevens should ask former Twins closer Rick Aguilera to do
him a favor. He should invite Aguilera, who will start in the
rotation for Minnesota this season, to sit next to him in the
bullpen when Aguilera isn't pitching, so Stevens can learn what
it takes to be an ace reliever. After Aguilera was traded to
the Red Sox last July, Stevens took on the closer's role, with
mixed results. He converted 10 of 12 save opportunities and had
a 1.72 ERA in his last 15 appearances but struggled at times,
allowing a total of 11 walks and three homers--and a .386
average--to the first batters he faced in each outing. The
righthanded Stevens has a solid fastball, but he needs to add
another pitch to his repertoire and become more commanding from
the moment he steps on the mound. Perhaps Aguilera, who was one
of the big leagues' best closers, with 204 saves over the past
six years, can help him. Besides, now that Aguilera is a
starter, he may need some favors from Stevens.

PROJECTED LINEUP With 1995 Stats

BATTING ORDER BA, HRs, RBIs, SBs

2B Chuck Knoblauch .333, 11, 63, 46
1B Paul Molitor[**] .270, 15, 60, 12
RF Kirby Puckett .314, 23, 99, 3
3B Dave Hollins*[**] .229, 7, 25, 1
LF Marty Cordova .277, 24, 84, 20
C Greg Myers[**] .260, 9, 38, 0
DH Scott Stahoviak .266, 3, 23, 5
SS Pat Meares .269, 12, 49, 10
CF Matt Lawton (R) 26 SB in AA

BENCH

OF Roberto Kelly[**] .278, 7, 57, 19
C Matt Walbeck .257, 1, 44, 3

STARTERS W-L, ERA

RH Rick Aguilera[**] 3-3, 2.60
RH Frankie Rodriguez 5-8, 6.13
RH Brad Radke 11-14, 5.32
RH LaTroy Hawkins (R) 2-3, 8.67
RH Jose Parra 1-5, 7.59

RELIEVERS SAVES, ERA

RH Dave Stevens 10, 5.07
LH Eddie Guardado 2, 5.12
RH Pat Mahomes 3, 6.37
LH Rich Robertson 0, 3.83

*National League statistics
[**] New acquisition (R) Rookie