Minnesota Twins: Breaking Down the team’s Early Season Struggles
By Greg Simbeck
The Minnesota Twins 2021 season has certainly not started the way they had hoped. After a promising 5-2 start, the Twins now have a 6-11 record, and they find themselves a full three games behind the surprising Kansas City Royals. It’s not very difficult to see why they’ve struggled either.
Several contributing factors have built team’s slow start. There have been multiple injuries and more than a few poor individual performances that have certainly contributed, but the team has had different issues as well.
Over the past weekend, the Twins saw two of their home games against the Angels and the opener of their series against the Athletics in Oakland postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the team. This doesn’t even mention the postponement after the police shooting of Daunte Wright.
All of these factors have combined to greatly hurt the Minnesota Twins.
Let’s take a look at these, shall we? First the Minnesota Twins who have been injured so far this season. Josh Donaldson was pulled from the very first game with a strained hamstring and he promptly was placed on the 10-day injured list. He just returned to the lineup last week.
Byron Buxton, off to a torrid start, missed a game early with a non-COVID related illness, and just as Donaldson was returning to the lineup, Buxton was sidelined with a right hamstring strain. He returned with a vengeance against the A’s, but it wasn’t enough to earn the win.
Rookie Brent Rooker who started the season as part of the left field platoon situation was placed on the 10-day IL with a cervical strain and still has not returned to the lineup, and that doesn’t even mention the COVID issues we’ll get to later
Several Minnesota Twins hitters are off to disappointing starts in this young season. Mitch Garver, Miguel Sano, Jake Cave. Ryan Jeffers, and Jorge Polanco are all hitting at or below the Mendoza Line. Max Kepler is currently hitting below .240, and Rooker and Alex Kirilloff have one hit between them.
Buxton, Nelson Cruz, and Luis Arraez have carried the team’s offensive load so far, and while that likely will continue, the team can’t be held up on the offense of those three and a sometimes healthy Donaldson.
There are also major disappointments on the pitching side of the ledger. New starter Matt Shoemaker has gotten absolutely shelled in his last two starts, and while the other starters have pitched reasonably well, they’ve failed to go deep into outings or have seen their games go south due to a lack of run support.
Relief pitching has been a big disappointment so far in 2021. Randy Dobnak and his new and improved slider has looked just awful so far. Cody Stashak got off to a horrendous start and was optioned back to St. Paul. Alex Colome and Caleb Thielbar have also been hit particularly hard this spring.
Tyler Duffey and Hansel Robles have been good this spring, but each has been the victim of one very bad outing. Only Taylor Rodgers has been the shining light so far this season sporting a 0.00 ERA and a 0.94 WHIP with 6 strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings.
On top of all this, COVID-19 has caused innumerable problems for the team. First shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who was playing excellent baseball, was diagnosed with the virus last week, and then in an unrelated incident, Kepler, Kyle Garlick, and Thielbar have been placed on the COVID-19 list, which lead to the postponement of games.
There is still plenty of time for the Minnesota Twins to right their ship. The three days off gave the team time to rest the players that were coming back from injuries, and they had another day today to help the struggling players refocus so that they can step up their games and increase their contributions to the team.
After largely avoiding it in 2020, who knows what’s next with the COVID situation. Coupled with a rash of injuries, the Twins have been dealt an awful hand. We’ll have to pray to the Baseball Gods that things get back to normal.