New Season Has Arrived! Pitchers and Catchers Report

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Feb 14, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; A general view of 2017 Spring Training MLB baseballs lay on George M. Steinbrenner Field as pitchers and catchers report. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 14, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; A general view of 2017 Spring Training MLB baseballs lay on George M. Steinbrenner Field as pitchers and catchers report. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /
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Full of Optimism, Twins Get Started on 2017.

Twins didn’t overhaul their roster this past off-season, instead they are hoping they their budding stars will mature and the wins total will grow with their development.

That, and Minnesota is hoping for rebound seasons from two of their veterans who are coming off injury-shortened seasons.

Phil Hughes and Glen Perkins are leaders on the team, in the starting rotation and bullpen, respectively. But Hughes was limited to just 11 starts, before undergoing surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. And Perkins appeared in only the opening series of the season before being shut down.

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The Twins and Hughes are hoping the surgery helped free up the tightness and tingling he’d been experiencing for the past year and a half before getting hurt, leading to a drop-off in his velocity.

Hughes will need those extra two-to-three mph in his fastball as he relies on location and changing speeds.

After getting hit by a line drive and breaking his left leg just above the knee, Hughes decided to proceed with the surgery to remove a rib to relieve pressure on the arteries and veins in his pitching shoulder.

That same June afternoon, Perkins was throwing a bullpen session to have the team doctors assess his recovery on his strained shoulder. It did not go well. Further testing showed that Perk had suffered a torn labrum – ending his season, and even putting the start to 2017 in jeopardy.

But today, after pitchers and catchers reported to Hammond Stadium, the Twins All-Star closer could be seen throwing his first bullpen session of the Spring:

Rhett Bollinger from MLB.com reported that Perkins threw 15 pitches at 75%. He was supposed to throw in front of coaches last Friday, but soreness pushed it back until today. Getting over the pain from the surgery itself will be half the battle.

You can be sure that the Twins will take it slow with Perkins’ recovery, not wanting to re-injure his valuable shoulder. While many Twins fans aren’t high on Perkins, the truth is, when he is healthy and on his game, he is one of the better closers in all of baseball.

If he starts the season on the disabled list, look for Brandon Kintzler and J.T. Chargois to battle over the closer’s spot throughout March’s exhibition games.

Hughes’ reemergence in the starting rotation, especially if it is the Phil Hughes from 2014-15, when he walked only 16 batters each season, will be a boon to the fortunes of the team on the field.

He keeps the defense involved with sharp, quick innings – keeping his team in the game mentally and on the scoreboard. While no longer the ace of the staff, Ervin Santana has wrested that title away, Hughes can provide veteran leadership and innings to a team with a suspect bullpen.

Hughes comes into the new year with a fresh perspective, and will pitch for the first time as a married man, getting hitched this past December in California. For a good laugh, and great baseball insight, check out @PJHughes45 on Twitter – he rarely disappoints.

Next: Top 10 Twins Prospects: #9 Nick Burdi

Notes: The Arizona Diamondbacks announced today that former Twins manager, and current Diamondbacks’ bench coach, Ron Gardenhire, has prostate cancer. Gardy will have surgery in the coming weeks here in Minnesota.

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