Twins' offense lagging, but confidence is high

Published Apr. 9, 2012 8:06 p.m. EDT

MINNEAPOLIS — Twins manager Ron Gardenhire talked before his team's home opener Monday about Minnesota's lack of offense through its first three games. The Twins scored just five total runs in the season-opening series against the Baltimore Orioles and failed to score more than two runs in a game.

Gardenhire delivered a similar message following Monday's 5-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels.

"We've got to come up with hits," Gardenhire said. "We've got hitters that we think can hit the baseball. We've got to score some runs."

Both hits and runs have been tough to come by early on for Minnesota. Prior to Monday, only Atlanta had fewer hits (14) than the Twins (15). Minnesota's five runs through its first three games were the fewest in all of major league baseball.

With just one run and five hits Monday, that didn't change much for Gardenhire's club as they faced new Angels left-hander C.J. Wilson. The Twins have now managed just six runs and 20 hits through four games.

As a result of the offense's sluggish start, Minnesota's hitters seem to be pressing.

"Early on, guys tend to press a little bit, tend to do too much, which is normal," said catcher Ryan Doumit, who picked up his first hit as a Twin on Monday. "Especially the first couple games when we don't score runs, you go up there and try to hit the five-run home run every at-bat. You just can't play like that. Once everybody settles down and plays up to their capabilities, we're going to be pretty good."

A year ago, the Twins scored just 619 runs, sixth-fewest in major league baseball and second-fewest in the American League (Seattle scored an MLB-low 556). Minnesota lost Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, Jim Thome and Delmon Young from last year's team, who were second, third, fourth and fifth on the team, respectively, in RBI a season ago. Thome was traded to Cleveland late in the season and is now with Philadelphia, while Young is with the Tigers after Minnesota dealt him to Detroit last year. Cuddyer and Kubel signed as free agents with Colorado and Arizona, respectively.

To fill those voids on offense, the Twins signed the likes of Doumit, Josh Willingham and Jamey Carroll. But Minnesota's new additions didn't experience the 99 losses the Twins endured last season -- and they said they don't feel there's been a carryover effect from last year.

"I don't feel that. I haven't really felt any of what they went through last year any part of the time I've been here," Carroll said. "We have belief that we're a good ballclub. I don't think I get that sense, 'No, no here we go again,' or anything like that kind of thing from this club yet."

Willingham hit a career-high 29 home runs last season with Oakland and has been one of the few Twins batters who has produced offensively through four games. He has Minnesota's only two home runs this season, including one off Wilson on Monday.

Willingham's solo shot to left in the fourth inning was his second career homer at Target Field in just four career games at the third-year park. Target Field has gotten a reputation as a pitchers' park, and left-handers have had a hard time hitting for power to right field.

But it doesn't appear the right-handed Willingham will have any trouble with the dimensions of his new home park.

"I hit one good and hit it far enough, for sure," he said of his first-pitch homer off a Wilson changeup.

Willingham nearly hit his second homer of the game off Wilson in the sixth, but the long drive to left hooked foul before it reached the left field bleachers.

"He can put the ball in the seats. He just missed the second one," Gardenhire said. "But he's got a nice compact swing, and we're seeing exactly what we thought we would, a guy that can hook a baseball and drive it."

Willingham had two of Minnesota's five hits Monday and is now batting .385 through the first four games. Justin Morneau went 0-for-3 Monday but has also swung the bat well early on.

The Twins remain confident they have enough weapons in the lineup to score runs. It's just taking a bit longer than they anticipated to get things rolling.

"Hopefully we just get a bunch of guys going at the same time. That's how you score runs," Willingham said. "Usually it's contagious, hitting is, on both ends. Right now it's on the other end, so hopefully we can turn it around."

Minnesota's offensive woes are magnified by the fact that it is indeed the first four games of the season. If the Twins struggled to score runs during a four-game stretch in July, it might not come off as a big deal.

But now that Minnesota is 0-4 to start the year for just the third time in team history, the lack of offense is sticking out more than it might otherwise.

"It's not the most ideal of starts. We're better than this," Doumit said. "We keep talking, this is the calm before the storm. We haven't quite clicked on all cylinders yet, and when we do, we're going to be pretty tough."

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