MINNEAPOLIS - Baseball is back. The Minnesota Twins have left Spring Training in Fort Myers, Fla., and are in Milwaukee to open the 2021 Major League Baseball season against the Brewers.
The Twins have won two straight American League Central Division titles with Rocco Baldelli, but haven’t won a playoff game in 18 years. They couldn’t get over that hump last year, so that’s the goal for 2021.
Who will take the field for the Twins in 2021? Here’s a look at the roster a day before Opening Day.
Kenta Maeda – Kenta Maeda earned the Opening Day start Thursday after leading the Twins with a 6-1 mark in 11 starts and a 2.70 earned run average. He finished second in American League Cy Young Award voting, and was one of the main reasons the Twins got back to the playoffs.
Jose Berrios – If not for Maeda, Berrios would be Minnesota’s ace. Berrios finished 5-4 in 12 starts with a 4.0 ERA and struck out 68. He needs to throw more strikes and limit his pitch count, but having Berrios as No. 2 in the rotation is a good problem to have.
Michael Pineda – Michael Pineda finished 2-0 in five starts and had a 3.38 ERA after finishing a suspension at the end of 2019. He attacks the strike zone and makes hitters earn getting on base, giving the Twins a valuable arm in the rotation.
J.A. Happ – The Twins signed J.A. Happ in free agency to add depth to the back of the rotation. He went 2-0 in four starts with the Yankees last year.
Matt Shoemaker – In another low-risk, high-reward move, the Twins added Matt Shoemaker to the back of the rotation. He’s back and ready to prove he’s healthy after battling injuries the last few years.
The Twins’ bullpen includes Jorge Alcala, Alex Colome, Randy Dobnak, Tyler Duffey, Hansel Robles, Taylor Rogers, Cody Stashak and Caleb Thielbar.
Josh Donaldson – Josh Donaldson was the big splash signing last year, then battled calf injuries much of the season and didn’t even make the playoff roster. He played in just 28 games at third base, hitting .222 with six homers. The Twins need a healthy Donaldson to make a bigger push in 2021.
Andrelton Simmons – Andrelton Simmons takes over at shortstop and is considered one of the best defensive players in MLB over the last decade. Simmons and Donaldson should make one of the best left sides of the infield in MLB.
Jorge Polanco – Jorge Polanco moved to second base with Simmons taking over at short. He hit .258 with four homers last year, and is now healthy after offseason ankle surgery. The Twins expect big things from Polanco in 2021.
Miguel Sano – Miguel Sano is one of the most dangerous hitters in the Minnesota lineup when he’s healthy, and when he’s not striking out. He hit 13 homers last year, and made big strides defensively at first base. He’s poised for a big season.
Luis Arraez is the utility infielder, and will get used plenty between his consistency on defense, at the plate and ability to play almost anywhere on the field.
Byron Buxton – Byron Buxton is one of the most electric players in baseball when he’s healthy. He’ll hold down center field in 2021 after hitting .245 with 13 homers in 39 games last season. His defense in center single-handedly keeps the Twins in games.
Jake Cave – Jake Cave is the utility outfielder and has shown he belongs in MLB when he gets a chance. In 42 games last season, he hit .221 with four homers.
Kyle Garlick – In maybe the surprise of 2021, Kyle Garlick won a roster spot over Brent Rooker and Alex Kiriloff. Garlick hit .293 in Spring Training with five homers and 13 RBI.
Max Kepler – Max Kepler played 48 regular season games last year, and the Twins are at their best when he’s in right field. He hit .228 with nine homers last season.
Nelson Cruz – When everything is right with the Twins, Nelson Cruz is the designated hitter. In 53 games last season, he hit .303 with a team-high 16 homers and 33 RBI. He’s the unquestioned leader of the Twins’ clubhouse.
The Twins will go with Mitch Garver and Ryan Jeffers sharing catching duties. Willians Astudillo will fill in when needed.
Baseball is back, and it starts Thursday afternoon in Milwaukee. Enjoy the ride.