"It just seemed like it wasn't our time," closer Joe Nathan said.
Heading into 2008, the Twins face their share of question marks. Team leader Torii Hunter is a free agent and the club has holes at more than a few positions. Still, it will be up to many of the players currently in place to make sure that next season is not a repeat of 2007.
"You can only fill so many holes outside this organization, so some people inside the organization are going to have to get it done at a few positions here," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It takes a lot of money to buy people on the outside market, and we don't normally do that. So it's going to be interesting to see how things go and what this club looks like when we reach Spring Training."
79-83, third in AL Central.
Defining moment: Despite an inability to produce consistent offense for the majority of the season, the Twins headed to Cleveland in late August down just 5 1/2 games in the division. Coming off a four-game series sweep of the Orioles, the team had momentum and hoped it could get back in the race. Instead, the Indians took all three contests and the Twins never recovered.
What went right: Hunter had one of his best offensive seasons, establishing career highs in hits, doubles and RBIs. The Twins also saw their young pitchers emerge as legitimate starters. The club was so concerned about youth in the rotation that it took fliers on Ramon Ortiz and Sidney Ponson. But both pitchers lasted less than two months in the rotation before the club turned to Scott Baker, Matt Garza and Kevin Slowey, who all helped solidify the rotation.
2007 Twins statistical leaders
|Average: Mike Redmond, .294
||Wins: Johan Santana, 15
|Doubles: Torii Hunter, 45
||Losses: Carlos Silva, 14
|Triples: Jason Bartlett, 7
||ERA (starter): Santana, 3.33
|Home runs: Justin Morneau, 31
||ERA (reliever, min. 10 appearances): Joe Nathan, 1.88
|Runs: Hunter, 94
||Saves: Nathan, 37
|RBIs: Morneau, 111
|Stolen bases: Bartlett, 23
What went wrong: The Twins returned nearly the same lineup as '06, but it was a combination of injuries and down offensive years for a few key players that added up to trouble. Nick Punto went from hitting near .300 in '06 to straddling the .200 mark for most of the second half, and Rondell White never really recovered from an injury suffered the first week of the season.
Biggest surprise: Joe Mauer never really had a chance to defend his batting title due to lingering injuries. Mauer missed more than 40 games due to leg injuries and never really was healthy from the time the club left Spring Training.
FORECAST FOR 2008
After returning almost their entire lineup in 2007, the Twins face more than a few holes. First baseman Justin Morneau, shortstop Jason Bartlett, right fielder Michael Cuddyer and catcher Mauer all will be back. But the team faces question marks at third base, DH, second base and left field. If Hunter leaves via free agency, it would also leave a big hole in center field -- and in the lineup. The loss of Hunter's offensive production would be a big blow for a team that's lacking power.
Rotation: Only ace Johan Santana is penciled into the rotation for 2008. It's unclear whether the Twins will try to re-sign right-hander Carlos Silva, who is a free agent at season's end. Without Silva, the Twins will be very young in the rotation. But they have plenty of options. Baker emerged as a legitimate starter and righties Boof Bonser, Garza and Slowey all gained more experience. Left-hander Francisco Liriano is on schedule to return from Tommy John elbow surgery in time for spring, and could provide a spark if he's fully healthy.
Bullpen: The Twins' relief corps certainly battled through its share of injuries. Right-hander Jesse Crain and left-handers Dennys Reyes and Glen Perkins all missed time. Righty Matt Guerrier emerged as a solid late-inning option to complement right-hander Pat Neshek in the eighth-inning spot. Neshek became the primary setup option with Juan Rincon fighting inconsistency issues all season. But the look of the 'pen will depend largely on whether the team picks up the $6 million option on Nathan for the 2008 season.
The Twins' biggest hole is still a question mark until Hunter's future is decided. The Twins are looking for a power-hitting third baseman and a possible DH option to help add offense that was lacking in '07. But if the club loses Hunter in center field, there is no real solution there.
Prospect to watch: Alexi Casilla was labeled the successor to Luis Castillo at second base when the club traded Castillo to the Mets, but he's struggled through a myriad of rookie mistakes. Casilla gives the club a speedy option for the top of the lineup if he can shorten his swing and be more consistent at the plate.