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Bolstered by impact arms, Twins look toward '13

Bolstered by impact arms, Twins look toward '13

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Bolstered by impact arms, Twins look toward '13
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins are more than ready to move on to 2013 after another disappointing season in '12 that saw them finish in the American League cellar for a second straight year.

The future looks brighter for the Twins, who finally added much-needed impact arms this offseason, after trading Denard Span to the Nationals for prospect Alex Meyer and trading Ben Revere to the Phillies for Vance Worley and prospect Trevor May.

But those trades could come at a cost in 2013, as Span and Revere are both talented players who will be missed both offensively and defensively.

So the upcoming season could be a rebuilding effort for the Twins, although general manager Terry Ryan has maintained he's not looking past '13 and believes his club can contend, if everything breaks right and the starting pitching holds up.

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Here are 10 questions to consider as Minnesota heads into the 2013 season.

10. Will the revamped coaching staff make a difference?
The first big move of the offseason was shaking up the coaching staff, as the Twins brought in Tom Brunansky as hitting coach, Bobby Cuellar as bullpen coach and Terry Steinbach as bench coach. All three come with positive reviews from younger players who worked with them in the Minor Leagues and during Spring Training. But it'll be an interesting dynamic, as the staff also includes holdovers in Joe Vavra, Scott Ullger and Rick Anderson.

9. How will Chris Parmelee fare as club's regular right fielder?
It was an up-and-down year for Parmelee in '12, as he put up monster numbers at Triple-A Rochester, but struggled in limited time with the Twins, hitting just .229 with five homers in 64 games. But the Twins are hoping he'll improve with regular playing time and he's considered the top candidate to be the everyday right fielder now that Span and Revere are gone.

8. Who will start in the middle infield?
The Twins have plenty of options, including veteran Jamey Carroll and more inexperienced infielders such as Brian Dozier, Pedro Florimon and Eduardo Escobar. Both second base and shortstop will be up for grabs in Spring Training, with no clear favorites for either position.

7. Can Trevor Plouffe emerge as a capable everyday third baseman?
Plouffe showed some positive signs last season with a career-high 24 homers in 119 games. He was one of the game's hottest hitters in June and July before suffering a thumb injury that plagued him for the rest of the season. So the Twins are hoping for more consistency from Plouffe, especially defensively, if he is to take over full time at third.

6. How will the club's top prospects develop?
With the additions of Meyer and May, the Twins have no shortage of some of baseball's top prospects, including outfielders Byron Buxton, Oswaldo Arcia and Aaron Hicks, infielders Miguel Sano and Eddie Rosario and pitchers Kyle Gibson, J.O. Berrios and B.J. Hermsen. The future could be very bright if these prospects continue to develop, as help isn't too far away.

5. Will Justin Morneau stay healthy and return to form?
Aside from missing time with a setback to his wrist in early May, Morneau was able to mostly stay on the field last season by playing in 134 games after playing in just 150 games the previous two seasons combined. Morneau's concussion problems appear behind him, and if he continues to hold up in '13, he could have a big season in the final year of his contract.

4. Who will start in center field with Revere and Span gone?
The leading candidate is Darin Mastroianni, who was a pleasant surprise this season and can handle the position defensively. But the Twins will also give Hicks and former top prospect Joe Benson a shot to compete with Mastroianni in Spring Training. The most likely scenario is Mastroianni keeping the position warm until Hicks is ready in May or June.

3. Will the Twins continue to trade for more pitching?
Ryan has already made two big splashes by trading Span and Revere for pitching help, and he could do the same with other trade chips such as Josh Willingham, Ryan Doumit or Morneau. But it appears more likely the Twins will hang on to those players while they could deal for more pitching help near the July 31 Trade Deadline, if they're out of contention.

2. What will the starting rotation be to open the season?
The Twins entered the offseason with only Scott Diamond considered a lock to be in the rotation, but added Worley and Kevin Correia to the mix. Gibson, who is coming off Tommy John surgery, is also a likely option, but his innings will be monitored. The Twins could sign another starter or decide to fill their final spot in-house from candidates such as Cole De Vries, Liam Hendriks or Brian Duensing.

1. Is this Ron Gardenhire's last season as Twins manager?
Gardenhire is in the final year of his contract and told Ryan he wasn't deserving of a contract extension after the '12 season. Gardenhire has had plenty of success, including winning six division titles and the AL Manager of the Year in 2010, but the last two years have been rough. Ryan will certainly be aware of what Gardenhire has to work with in '13 but if the club has a similar last-place finish, it could be Gardenhire's final year in Minnesota after 12 seasons.

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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