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Opinion: Twins Could Get Back Into The Race If They Ever Get Healthy

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The Minnesota Twins currently possess the worst record in Major League Baseball, which is not something that anybody expected going into the 2011 season. There is a pretty good reason for at least some of the team's difficulties, however. . .as loathe as people usually are to use injuries as an excuse for an underperforming team, in this case the Twins can make a pretty good case.

Here is the lineup that the Twins put on the field on Opening Day at the Rogers Centre in Toronto:

Denard Span, center field
Tsuyoshi Nishioka, second base
Joe Mauer, catcher
Justin Morneau, first base
Delmon Young, left field
Michael Cuddyer, right field
Jason Kubel, designated hitter
Danny Valencia, third base
Alexi Casilla, shortstop

Now. . .let's take a moment to compare this to the lineup that the Twins will put on out at Target Field this afternoon. . .Saturday, June 11. . .against the Texas Rangers.

Ben Revere, center field
Alexi Casilla, shortstop
Michael Cuddyer, first base
Delmon Young, left field
Rene Tosoni, designated hitter
Danny Valencia, third base
Brian Dinkelman, right field
Rene Rivera, catcher
Matt Tolbert, second base

That's nearly two-thirds of the Minnesota starting lineup that is out with injury concerns, and one guy that was in the Opening Day lineup that's at a different defensive position. This doesn't include Jim Thome, who is out with back and quadriceps problems. And it doesn't even begin to touch on the pitching staff, where Francisco Liriano, Kevin Slowey, Glen Perkins, and Joe Nathan (among others) have all spent time on the disabled list. Not to mention that Justin Morneau hasn't been truly healthy all year, and will be seeing a wrist specialist early next week.

We aren't even two and a half months into the 2011 season, and the Minnesota Twins have already used nineteen different pitchers. In the absence of Mauer, the team's two catchers are hitting a combined .189 (31-for-164), and the Twins were even giving time at catcher to something named Steve Holm (not to be confused with Steve Holt!) for a spell. For crying out loud, today's lineup features Rene Tosoni, he of the thirty career home runs. . .in five minor league seasons. . .batting in the fifth spot and serving as the designated hitter.

Sure, the Twins are still 11 games out in the American League Central, but at this point the division certainly doesn't appear to have a dominant team. The Cleveland Indians, who not long ago had the best record in baseball, have dropped seven out of their last eight to come back to the pack, and none of the other three teams in the division have been terribly impressive.

Also, it sounds as though the Twins are finally getting healthy. . .Mauer is catching regularly at Fort Myers and could be back in the lineup in a week or so, Nishioka is playing regularly in his rehab assignment, and Thome and Kubel could be back shortly as well.

Can the Twins make up eleven games on the Indians? I don't know. . .we haven't seen much of the Twins this year, as the roster for much of the season has more closely resembled the Rochester Red Wings than the Minnesota Twins. However, if everybody gets healthy, you never know. I'm not going to say it's likely, but I'm also not going to count out a Ron Gardenhire-coached team when the chips are down, either. If the Twins can keep getting healthy, and possibly stay healthy for a while, it's a distinct possibility.

Photographs by Micah Taylor, clairity, and Fibonacci Blue used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.