Twins improvements

Terry Ryan has finished putting the 2006 team in place, and I think he did a pretty good job. This should be a fun team to watch. Of course, last year at this time I figured the Twins would be very improved from the year previous. I was quite wrong. Their pitching stayed solid, but their hitting went south.

The biggest deal is that Terry Ryan improved the team's hitting without giving up any of the Twins vaunted pitching--with the exception of J. C. Romero, who they wanted to get rid of due to his erratic streak.

Position by position:

Catcher: Solid. Joe Mauer is on his way to stardom. Backup Mike Redmond is solid, both defensively and at the plate.

Third base: Tony Batista, brought in from Japan, hits home runs and bats in runs. Only cranky blogger Aaron Gleeman thinks the signing was a big mistake. His arguments are good, but I still Batista was an excellent signing.

Shortstop: Could be a weak spot if Jason Bartlett doesn't improve. I like his backup, Juan Castro, an awful lot. In the old days, when teams didn't care if they got any hitting out of their shortstop, Castro would play every day on the strength of his wonderful defense.

Second base: Solid. Luis Castillo is a great addition. The former Marlins second baseman was a favorite of manager Jack McKeon, who said his only complaint was that Castillo was too hard on himself sometimes.

First base: Morneau has solidified his defense. He has so much talent with the bat that I am assuming he will come around from a season which disappointed many, but which really wasn't so bad for early in a career. One winter ago, Morneau was sick with chicken pox, appendicitis and other ailments all winter.

Left field: Shannon Stewart had a bad season. I suspect he will rebound.

Center: Self-appointed team captain and spokesman Torii Hunter is back, unless the Red Sox make an offer to Ryan for Hunter that the Twins can't refuse. They might. They just lost Johnny Damon, and they're in the hunt for a superstar centerfielder to replace him. Hunter would quickly endear himself to the Fenway faithful. I hope he stays as much as I wish he would quit analyzing the team in the newspaper. That isn't his job.

Right: Jacque Jones is gone, and thank goodness. I am tired of seeing him flail at low inside curveballs. The only thing I'll miss about him is his toothy grin after he made it on base. His attitude was always great. Lew Ford, Micheal Cuddyer and Jason Kubel will fight for the job. Kubel could be a great one.

Designated hitter: Ryan signed Rondell White, a strong hitter who seems to have a Twins type attitude. I liken him to Chili Davis, who the Twins signed in 1991 and who helped them make it to the World Series.

Pitching: Solid, solid, solid. If Radke falters early on, they should trade him for a cow. They have two rookies ready to step into the rotation in Francisco Liriano and Scott Baker. Why they are hanging onto Kyle Lohse is anybody's guess. He's going to be overpaid next season-- $4 million for perpetual mediocrity and poutiness. Let an eager rookie take his place and gain experience for less than one-tenth the price.