Mar 28, 2014; Fort Myers, FL, USA; Minnesota Twins first baseman Joe Mauer (7) connects for a base hit against the Boston Red Sox during their game at Hammond Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Series Preview: Cleveland Indians vs. Minnesota Twins

Indians Take on Twins in Home Opening Series

Fresh off of a successful season opening road trip to Oakland, the Indians come back home to Cleveland to take on the Minnesota Twins. This intradivision series opens up the Indians home schedule while also being the first set of games against an AL Central rival. The weather might not be perfect and there’s a good chance we’ll experience rain delays and frost bite, but it’ll be well worth it. Baseball is back!

As previously mentioned, the Indians come into this home opening series with a 2-1 record after taking two of three from the Oakland A’s. For the most part, the Indians pitching has been lights out. With the exception of one short start from Corey Kluber, the Indians were able to keep the potent Oakland offensive attack at bay. Knowing what they’re capable of, there’s no reason to think they can’t perform just as well, if not better against a much weaker Twins team.

Leading off for the Indians on the mound this afternoon will be Danny Salazar. Making his first Opening Day start, expectations are high for Salazar. He has been among the most commonly cited players for potential break out seasons this year and following last year’s run of success, there is reason to believe he could fulfill those expectations. Look for him to establish his fastball early and then work off of that with sliders and changeups.

Following Salazar will be Carlos Carrasco in his first start since being named the team’s fifth starter and then Indians ace Justin Masterson in the Sunday matinee. Knowing what each is capable of, there is no reason why the Indians couldn’t get a sweep or take two of three at the very least. Exiting the weekend with a 4-2 record is very much in play, so long as no implosions occur on the mound.

twins mauer

Mar 13, 2014; Fort Myers, FL, USA; Minnesota Twins first baseman Joe Mauer (7) at bat against the Boston Red Sox during a spring training game at Hammond Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Meanwhile, the Twins find themselves in a bit of an awkward period. They are clearly rebuilding for the future, but also retaining several players that were mainstays over recent seasons.

The most notable of these players is obviously Joe Mauer. As the face of the franchise and one of the most easily recognizable players in all of baseball, Mauer is a legitimate super-star. Sure, he had a couple of rough seasons thanks to injuries, but Mauer is finally fully healthy and looks ready to reassert his dominance at the plate.

Aiding in his goal will be a recent position switch. Originally a catcher, Mauer has seen his playing time increase at first base over the past couple of seasons. Now, with his long-time teammate and best friend, Justin Morneau, gone, Mauer is making the full-time switch over to first base. With less stress on his legs and wear and tear in general, Joe Mauer should be able to stay healthy. A healthy Joe Mauer should result in some truly gaudy numbers at the plate.

However, Mauer can’t do it all himself, but given the current state of the Twins roster, he might have to. As I stated earlier, the Twins are rebuilding through the draft. However, none of their top prospects are really ready to make the jump to the big league level. Byron Buxton is still a year away, at least. Miguel Sano might have been promoted at some point, but Tommy John surgery has sidelined him indefinitely. Top pitching prospect, Alex Meyer might make his big league debut at some point this year, but with the Twins destined to be out of contention early, why rush the process?

Meanwhile, Mauer is going to battle each and every day with the likes of Trevor Plouffe, Josh Willingham, Kurt Suzuki, And Brian Dozier, just to name a few. Those are some solid players, but not core players. For the Twins, these are their core players. If you’re a fan of the Minnesota Twins, the future probably can’t get here fast enough.

From a pitching standpoint, the Twins actually went out and spent some money this offseason. Their newest editions, Phil Hughes and Ricky Nolasco, didn’t come cheap. They join a staff that includes Kevin Correia, Mike Pelfrey, and Kyle Gibson. Opposing lineups should have a field day against that pitching staff. In their first three games that proved to be true. The White Sox scored a combined 21 runs taking two of three from the Twins.

Out in the bullpen, it’s another rag-tag team of relief pitchers pieced together from failed starters and relative unknowns. However, they do have one of the league best closers in lefty Glen Perkins. After racking up 36 saves in 2013, Perkins was a hot commodity prior to the trade deadline and in the offseason. Whether or not the Twins decide to retain his services or move him for pieces that can help in the future still remains to be seen.

The long story short in all of this is that the Indians are the superior team on paper. The next three days should prove that to be true. Of course, stranger things have happened, as we have seen before. For whatever reason, the Twins always seem to have the Indians number and always seem to give them trouble. Hopefully, that won’t be the case this time around.And although the Indians struggled at times offensively against the A’s, the Twins should provide them ample opportunity to turn things around.

Pitching Matchups:

  • Danny Salazar vs. Mike Pelfrey
  • Carlos Carrasco vs. Kyle Gibson
  • Justin Masterson (0-0, 0.00 ERA/3.42 SIERA) vs. Ricky Nolaso (0-1, 7.50 ERA/3.96 SIERA)

Tags: Cleveland Indians Joe Mauer Miguel Sano Ricky Nolasco

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