Confident Twins get 1st crack at division champ Indians

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — After hiring a new manager and some power-hitting help, the Minnesota Twins have assembled a team for 2019 that, assuming expected progress by several of their young players, theyre confident can close the gap with Cleveland in the AL Central .

The Twins dont have to wait for a crack at the three-time defending division champions, with a season-opening three-game series starting on Thursday afternoon that will mark rookie skipper Rocco Baldellis debut in the dugout. The Indians are short-handed, too, with shortstop Francisco Lindor and second baseman Jason Kipnis both out with calf injuries.

“I think Ill have a good start this year. When I see Cleveland, its a good thing,” said Twins left fielder Eddie Rosario, who has a robust .973 OPS in 67 career games against the Indians.

Not all of his teammates, alas, have enjoyed such stellar performance against Cleveland, but theres clearly an air of embracing the challenge surrounding the Twins this spring. Right-hander Jose Berrios will make his first opening day start, who at age 24 will be the youngest to take the mound in the first game for Minnesota since a 23-year-old Brad Radke in 1996.

Berrios, who made his first All-Star team last season, will be matched against, gulp, Corey Kluber, the two-time AL Cy Young Award winner.

“If you want to be the best, you have to play against the best,” Berrios said.

Hes one of the handful of under-28 players the Twins are counting on to continue their development and, thus, form the core of a legitimate contender. Berrios posted a 3.84 ERA with two complete games and 202 strikeouts in 192 1/3 innings, all career bests.

“I know more of myself. I know how to control my pitches. I know more of the hitters,” Berrios said.

With Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Mike Clevinger and Shane Bieber, the Indians have a rotation thats as stacked as any in the major leagues . Where the Twins can best compare, though, is at the plate after adding Nelson Cruz, Read More – Source

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