Preview: Twins vs. Royals

Minnesota Twins shortstop Jorge Polanco and second baseman Brian Dozier celebrate a 7-1 win over the Kansas City Royals at Target Field.
Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS — The Kansas City Royals leaned on a shutdown bullpen to become one of the American League’s premier teams and win a World Series championship in 2015.

As Kansas City begins 2017, manager Ned Yost is still figuring out his bullpen and knowing which roles new or emerging players will fill.

“Guys go out and be productive,” Yost said. “That’s what you look for; guys that can handle the job and do it.”

Yost turned to his bullpen on Opening Day in a 1-1 game and two relievers proceeded to allow six runs, four hits and four walks as the Minnesota Twins won easily.

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The Royals continue their opening series with the second game in Minnesota on Wednesday afternoon.

Kansas City right-hander Ian Kennedy gets the ball while the Twins counter with left-hander Hector Santiago.

Minnesota, which hadn’t won on Opening Day since 2008 and started last year with nine straight losses, enjoyed the win.

“We didn’t try to overemphasize anything about today other than the fact that we’ve been on a little bit of a mission in spring training to try to come out and play a little bit better to start the season,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “It’s one game, but it couldn’t have been drawn up much better.”

The Royals were on the frustrating side of the opener.

When Yost calls to the bullpen, he no longer has Wade Davis, who was traded to the Chicago Cubs in the offseason. Greg Holland was a vital piece in 2015 before missing last year because of surgery, and he signed with the Colorado Rockies to close games.

Kelvin Herrera, Yost’s one-time savior in the seventh and eighth innings, is the team’s closer. Gone, too, are Luke Hochevar and Ryan Madson, who helped Kansas City post top-five bullpen ERAs each of the past two years. They were second in 2015 with a 2.72 ERA.

Matt Strahm had a 1.23 ERA in 21 games out of the bullpen as a rookie last season. But the left-hander allowed four runs on two hits, and three walks — one intentional — to take the loss.

“I was just spinning off there,” Strahm said. “I went back and looked at the video; just spinning off and not staying on top of the ball. I need to be better.”

Left-hander Travis Wood had a 2.95 ERA in 77 games last year and helped the Chicago Cubs to the World Series title. In his first appearance with the Royals, he walked two and gave up two hits leading to two runs.

“That’s not Woody,” Yost said. “I didn’t anticipate that. He’s a strike thrower. He’s a veteran strike thrower. He’s not a guy that gets frazzled or razzled out there. It was just one of those days for him where he just struggled with his command.”

While Yost figures out his bullpen, Minnesota is trying to change much from what happened last season when it slipped to 103 losses after winning 83 games in Molitor’s first season.

Getting another win Wednesday would only serve as another reminder that they’ve turned the page from 2016.

“Everything’s changed here,” said Miguel Sano, who hit a home run in the opener. “This is a new team here, and nothing from last year, so everybody’s changed the mentality.”