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We talk a lot about all of the question marks for the Twins heading into the season, and no question, after winning 95 games a season ago, it is remarkable how many unknowns there are heading into spring training. In my mind, one word describes the biggest issue for the Twins 2011 season. That word will determine, potentially, whether this team finishes first in the AL Central or falls to third. The word is one that every team has to worry about every season, and one that often fits into the cliche world. The word is “health.”
Yes, that refers to Justin Morneau and the concussion that he suffered last July. Yes, that refers to Joe Nathan and his return from Tommy John surgery last spring. It refers to Nick Blackburn and Scott Baker who each had “minor” offseason arm surgeries. It refers to Francisco Liriano who experienced some shoulder soreness the last few days. Joe Mauer and Michael Cuddyer each had “minor” knee surgery in the offseason. Pat Neshek’s return to 100% with a full season under his belt after his Tommy John surgery is a big story this spring. James Hoey and his, as Phil Mackey said on 1500espn yesterday, 185 mph fastball needs to stay healthy (and throw strikes). Carl Pavano has never been a beacon of health, and hopefully he can hit the 200 inning plateau again in 2011. And there are always unforeseen injuries throughout a season, big or small.
It is safe to assume that the Twins will not be 100% healthy all year. Neither will the White Sox or the Tigers or anyone. But this season more than any recent season, the term “health” is such a big thing heading into spring training. There are plenty of other question marks, including a lack of depth at some positions that make health even more important for the Twins. What is the backup plan if Joe Mauer or Justin Morneau get hurt? Who gets playing time if any of the Twins infielders get hurt? I actually am less worried about the Twins pitching staff as it relates to health than I am the position players because of the depth question.
I have no problem saying that, IF HEALTHY, the Twins have the best team in the AL Central, just ahead of the Chicago White Sox.
What do you think? What is the Twins most important key to their 2011 season? How would you rank their top five issues? Feel free to leave your comments here. Also, for more links to Twins articles and thoughts throughout the weekend, be sure to follow me on Twitter where I like to retweet Twins-related articles and post thoughts frequently.