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Twins' staff holds the key to team loaded with offense

(AP Photo/Mary Schwalm, File)

By KEN POWTAK

Associated Press

FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) Expecting another big season from their high-octane offense, the Minnesota Twins hope to pitch well enough to win a second straight AL Central title.

Minnesota set a major-league record with 307 homers and was eighth with a 4.18 ERA last year.

"We had a pretty darn good pitching staff last year statistically speaking," said right-hander Jake Odorizzi, who went 15-7 with a 3.51 ERA in 30 starts. "You didn't hear anything about it because we had such a historic offense. As with any staff, I think we're fine with it. We don't need the notoriety. This isn't the Nationals' pitching staff, the guys that have tremendous staffs that always get talked about."

Minnesota was second in runs with 939 and batting average at .274. The ERA was fifth among AL teams.

"I think we're just going to try and build off what we did last year," the 29-year-old Odorizzi said. "If we get talked about a little more this year, great. If not, as long as we win, we're a happy group."

Minnesota signing a pair of free agent starters; right-hander Homer Bailey and 40-year-old lefty Rich Hill, who is recovering from elbow surgery and not expected to pitch in the major leagues until June.

Just over a week ago, the Twins acquired righty Kenta Maeda from the Los Angeles Dodgers. He was 10-8 with a 4.04 ERA last year in 26 starts and 11 relief appearances.

Bailey, 33, a veteran with 13 seasons in the big leagues, split time between Kansas City and Oakland last season, going 13-9 with 4.57 ERA in 31 starts.

"I need all the run support I can get," he said, joking. "They won a hundred games and they're going to be competing for a championship, essentially. When you get in those types of positions, it's just a lot more fun."

Ace Jose Berrios is coming off his third straight season with a sub-4.00 ERA. The 25-year-old righty was an All-Star the past two seasons and thinks the Twins'-promising core is lined up for a successful run after the addition of veterans, including third baseman Josh Donaldson, a free agent who signed a $92 million, four-year contract.

"It feels great. There's a lot of motivation for us because we know we can do a lot of good things for us and for our city," Berrios said. "We take that as motivation and come to the ballpark every day and bring it 100% and try to be better every day."

While Minnesota is expected to score a lot, the starting pitchers know pitching likely will determine success.

"It always does regardless of your team," Odorizzi said. "You look at the good teams, the good teams can pitch."

NELLIE NICKED

Nelson Cruz was hit on the left wrist by right-hander Cody Stashak during batting practice on the main field.

"I had an X-ray, it came back negative, it's just a bruise," he said, showing the mark on his wrist while standing at his locker. "The tendon hurts, but it doesn't hurt to the swing, just where it got hit."

Manager Rocco Baldelli said: "It looks like it'll just be a few days."

Notes: Twins' greats Rod Carew, Tony Oliva and Torii Hunter were on hand in steamy, humid conditions. . Before BP, the team took grounders - with 3B Donaldson snagging one down the line barehanded - and cutoffs. Donaldson looked at his right hand briefly but stayed on the field.

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Updated February 19, 2020

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