Twins expecting, not dreaming of, postseason

Twins expecting, not dreaming of, postseason

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- As the Twins' clubhouse leader, All-Star second baseman Brian Dozier senses something different this spring.

In the past, the Twins were merely hopeful they'd be good in the upcoming season. But after last year's breakout campaign that saw them win 83 games to mark their first winning record since 2010, the Twins expect to be good. They weren't eliminated from the postseason until the second-to-last day of the season, leaving a bitter taste in their mouths. 

• Park's ability to adapt key for the Twins

This year, the Twins believe they will be in the postseason for the first time in six years.

"There are higher expectations this year," Dozier said. "This is the first time in my career I've come in not wanting to win, but expecting to win. The depth is there that good teams around the league have."

The Twins have one of the younger rosters in the Majors, especially in the outfield with Eddie Rosario, 24, in left field, Byron Buxton, 22, in center and Miguel Sano, 22, in right. The Twins are hopeful that full seasons from that trio will help an offense that finished second-to-last in on-base percentage last year.

The addition of Korean slugger Byung Ho Park should also add an impact bat to a lineup that already includes power hitters such as Dozier, Trevor Plouffe and Sano. The Twins finished tied for 12th in the Majors in runs scored last year, but much of that was because of their success with runners on base, which even general manager Terry Ryan said can fluctuate from year to year.

"We've got a handful of guys that certainly have a higher level than what we saw," Ryan said. "We won 83 games last year, and I don't think anybody really had a career year. But you've got to go out and prove it."

• After gaining perspective, Buxton ready to rise

On the pitching front, the Twins are excited about having right-hander Ervin Santana for a full season, after he missed 80 games last year due to his suspension for the use of a performance-enhancing drug. Right-hander Phil Hughes appears primed for a bounceback year, and the Twins have rotation reinforcements on the way such as Jose Berrios and Tyler Duffey. The Twins also have a wave of hard-throwing relievers who could make their debuts this year, as well.

"If we make that progression like we should, we're a playoff team," said right-hander Kyle Gibson, a breakout candidate in his fourth year. "We brought in Park and have some young guys we'll have all yearlong, and we get Ervin for a full season. So we've got a pretty good team. I'm sure on paper it'll be whatever it is, but we don't worry about that too much."

Twins manager Paul Molitor, who finished third in the balloting for American League Manager of the Year in his first year at the helm last season, also believes his team learned to play winning baseball and that it should carry over into this season.

"Collectively, we have lot of confidence," Molitor said. "I think learning how to win is important. I think sometimes it takes a while for guys to get out of just trying to get locked in up here. Winning can get pushed down the ladder a bit, but I think that changed last year and I think some of our young guys learned that, too."

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