1 Minnesota Twins The defending division champs have all the pieces in place, but for how much longer?

March 31, 2003

Forget contraction. The Twins are way past that. No, the biggest
threat to the Anti-Yankees as we know them--homegrown,
low-budget, easier to root for than Forrest Gump--is their own
success.

Over the winter penurious owner Carl Pohlad gave general manager
Terry Ryan the green light to increase the payroll from $40
million to $55 million, allowing for contract extensions to be
given to outfielders Torii Hunter (four years, $32 million) and
Jacque Jones (two years, $7.1 million). But what about next year?
The Twins must dole out about $10 million in guaranteed money to
six players who are signed to long-term deals, and a total of
five starting pitchers and every-day players will be eligible for
salary arbitration. It will take another sizable boost in the
payroll to keep the club together again. "Our window's not big,"
says first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz, whose salary goes to $1.75
million this year (from $285,000 last season) and who is among
those who will be eligible for arbitration after this season. "We
realize that financially the organization can't keep everyone
here, so this is the year for us. This is as good as it's going
to get."

Last season Minnesota won 94 games, took the AL Central by 13
1/2 and knocked the A's out of the playoffs despite an
underachieving, injury-plagued rotation and an infield that
suffered a significant drop in production from the year before.
Instead the Twins rode what they thought would be the team's
weakest link entering the season: the bullpen. With no-names and
young arms, the assemblage of relievers ranked second in the
league in wins and fourth in ERA. "They carried us through the
first half," says catcher A.J. Pierzynski, an AllStar in 2002
who will play for about $400,000 this year but then will be
eligible for arbitration. At the All-Star break the Minnesota
bullpen had 22 of the team's 50 wins--and the Twins had a 7
1/2-game division lead.

Closer Eddie Guardado, a lefthander, and setup man LaTroy
Hawkins, a righthander, anchor the bullpen and, in many respects,
the team. The two are vocal clubhouse leaders and close friends,
and they've been in Minnesota as long (10 and eight years,
respectively) as any other current Twin except shortstop Denny
Hocking (10 years) and righthander Brad Radke (eight years).
"We've been spit on, we've taken our lumps and we've all worked
very hard to get where we are here," says Guardado. An All-Star
last year, he is not your conventional lights-out closer. His
fastball rarely reaches 90 mph, and he doesn't have a good curve
or changeup. But Guardado, who had failed as a starter and had
been a serviceable middle reliever, revived his career in a
meaningless September 2001 game: He started to throw the splitter
and struck out the first two batters he tried it on. "I thought,
Wow, better use that next year," recalls Guardado, who logged a
franchise-record 45 saves in 2002.

As the Minnesota closer in 2001, Hawkins blew nine saves and had
a 5.96 ERA. "I was tired of struggling," he says, "so I went back
to kindergarten at the beginning of last year and tried to make
it to graduation by the end of the season." Over the course of
the year, during which he shared setup duties with lefthander
J.C. Romero, Hawkins overhauled his mechanics. He scrapped his
big leg kick and compacted his motion to become more consistent
in his delivery. By year's end Hawkins was hitting the high 90s
with his fastball--something he had never done in his first seven
big league seasons--and he emerged as a perfect complement to
Guardado.

Another surprise in last year's bullpen was lefthander Johan
Santana, whose best pitch is a wicked slider. Though he was only
fifth on the team in innings and wasn't called up until May 31,
Santana, 24, led the Twins in strikeouts (137 in 108 innings),
and his 11.38 K's per nine innings was second in the majors to
Arizona's Randy Johnson.

Just as the corps of relievers was at the root of last year's
success, so will it be key to a return to the playoffs this
season--not to mention at the heart of how Minnesota's payroll
will take shape in 2004. Next fall Guardado and Hawkins can
become free agents, and Romero and Santana will be eligible for
arbitration. --Albert Chen

COLOR PHOTO: STEVE MOORE CENTERPIECE Hunter is fresh off his first All-Star appearance and has a lucrative new contract to show for it. COLOR PHOTO: CRAIG JONES/GETTY IMAGES ROMERO

IN FACT
The Twins' record has been over .500 every day since the start of
the 2001 season--a span of 323 games. That's the longest current
streak in the majors.

ENEMY LINES
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Twins

"Much Has been made of the White Sox' improvement, but the Twins
have got to be the division favorite. General manager Terry Ryan
has put together one of the most well-rounded and fundamentally
sound clubs around, despite financial constraints.... The
outfield of Jacque Jones, Torii Hunter and Michael Cuddyer is
excellent defensively, and they should be able to produce a lot
of runs. Bobby Kielty and Dustan Mohr would start in a lot of
other places. Teams would love to get their hands on Kielty....
The infield defense is very good. Luis Rivas is a little
careless, but Doug Mientkiewicz is a Gold Glove candidate every
year.... Kenny Rogers isn't worth $2 million, but he's still a
good pickup. With Rogers and Rick Reed, they've got two veteran
control guys at the back of the rotation. They need Kyle Lohse in
the number 4 hole because he's the only power pitcher of the
bunch.... The back end of the bullpen--Johan Santana, J.C. Romero
and Eddie Guardado--consists of three of the toughest
lefties-on-lefties in the league. If Guardado ever went down,
Romero would step right into the closer's role.... It will take a
ton of injuries for this team to falter."

THE LINEUP
projected roster with 2002 statistics

BATTING ORDER

LF Jones
SS Guzman
CF Hunter
3B Koskie
DH LeCroy
1B Mientkiewicz
RF Cuddyer
C Pierzynski
2B Rivas

JACQUE JONES

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
L 61 .300 27 85 6

CRISTIAN GUZMAN

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
S-R 141 .273 9 59 12

TORII HUNTER

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
R 34 .289 29 94 23

COREY KOSKIE

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
L-R 80 .267 15 69 10

DOUG MIENTKIEWICZ

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
L-R 169 .261 10 64 1

MICHAEL CUDDYER (R)

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
R 180 .259 4 13 2

A.J. PIERZYNSKI

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
L-R 193 .300 6 49 1

LUIS RIVAS

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
R 235 .256 4 35 9

BENCH

BOBBY KIELTY

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
S-R 189 .291 12 42 4

DUSTAN MOHR

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
R 211 .269 12 45 6

DESIGNATED HITTER

MATT LECROY

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
R 177 .260 7 27 0

ROTATION

PITCHER PVR W L IPS WHIP ERA

RH Brad Radke 76 9 5 5.6 1.22 4.72
RH Joe Mays 82 4 8 5.6 1.45 5.38
RH Kyle Lohse 124 13 8 5.8 1.39 4.23
RH Rick Reed 51 15 7 5.8 1.16 3.78
LH Kenny Rogers[#] 73 13 8 6.4 1.34 3.84

BULLPEN

PITCHER PVR W L S WHIP ERA

LH Eddie Guardado 20 1 3 45 1.05 2.93
LH J.C. Romero 110 9 2 1 1.21 1.89
RH LaTroy Hawkins 199 6 0 0 0.97 2.13

[#] New acquisition
(R) Rookie
B-T: Bats-throws
IPS: Innings pitched per start
WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched
PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 157)

2002 RECORD
94--67
first in AL Central

MANAGER

Ron Gardenhire
second season with Minnesota

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)