The Minnesota Twins finished out the month of April with an 11-11 record, which is not bad, considering they played the entire month without All-Star Catcher Joe Mauer. The team got great offensive efforts from Justin Morneau, Jason Kubel, Jose Morales, and Denard Span, while Glen Perkins and Kevin Slowey were tough on the mound. As the calendar switches to May, the Twins are in prime position to make some noise in the American League Central.
One of the better stories of the first month was the power of Jason Kubel, who smacked four home runs. He finished the month second on the team in homers, runs batted in (16), and runs, while tying for the team lead in doubles. Add to the fact that he only struck out nine times, and you have to figure that it should be a good year for the slugger.
Justin Morneau led the way offensively, as he waits for the other half of the M&M Boys to return. He hit a team-high five home runs, drove in a team-high 18 runs batted in, and led the team with 28 hits. It looks as if he is on pace for another big season.
Denard Span, who many believe could be a .300 hitter this season, has gotten off to a fast start. The speedy outfielder is batting well above .300, and he leads the team with five stolen bases. He is doing everything possible to continue playing every day.
Backup catcher Jose Morales played very well when Mike Redmond went down, and he looks to stay with the big league club. Manager Ron Gardenhire has talked about keeping three catchers, mostly because of how successful Morales has been with the stick this season. He has an advanced batting eye for someone who has not been in the big leagues very long, and has good gap power.
Glen Perkins and Kevin Slowey have really held down the rotation so far in 2009, as top starter Francisco Liriano has struggled in the early going. The team has gotten a few solid efforts from Nick Blackburn, but he needs to be more consistent. Scott Baker has struggled since returning from injury, and the Twins are worried after his 0-3 start.
One main problem has been the bullpen, which was looked upon as a strength coming out of spring training. Luis Ayala (5.73), Jesse Crain (7.50), R.A. Dickey (5.73), and Matt Guerrier (5.40) have all struggled in the early going. The team has gotten good efforts from Jose Mijares and Craig Breslow, but they need guys like Ayala, Guerrier, and especially Crain to step up.
Despite their 5.26 team earned run average, and not getting much out of their top three starters, the Twins should be happy that they are .500, and they have Mauer coming back. The Central is wide open this season, as the Kansas City Royals have really turned some heads early on.