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Hayden Goethe, Published January 20 2014

Blyleven brings optimism: Hall of Famer, Twins broadcaster speaks of improvement at Twins Caravan stop in Fargo

FARGO – The Minnesota Twins Winter Caravan stop in Fargo was delayed by about 30 minutes, as the Twins contingent navigated icy roads during three previous Monday stops across the region prior to the evening program.

But Twins fans escaping the chilly temperatures were greeted by a declaration from Minnesota Twins broadcaster Bert Blyleven almost immediately after he took the stage at The Hub.

“This time next year, you’re going to see a 2014 World Series video,” Blyleven said as fans cheered.

In order for Blyleven’s prophecy to come true, the Twins are going to need to rebound in a big way.

About 550 fans were in attendance for the Twins Caravan to see Blyleven, bench coach Terry Steinbach and current players Trevor Plouffe and Anthony Swarzak discuss the team’s upcoming season.

The Twins went 66-96 last season and have failed to eclipse that win total since 2010. There were plenty of shortcomings last season, but starting pitching drew much of the team’s offseason focus.

After their rotation posted a major league-worst 5.26 ERA in 2013, the Twins added two starters this winter in right-handers Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes.

Nolasco, who signed a four-year, $49 million deal, went 13-11 with a 3.70 ERA last season, splitting the season with the Miami Marlins and Los Angeles Dodgers.

Hughes, who signed for three years and $24 million, struggled in 2013 with the New York Yankees, but he did go 16-13 with a 4.23 ERA in 2012.

“I think we’re going to have a very good pitching staff this year,” said Swarzak, who had a 2.91 ERA last season and led the majors with 96 relief innings. “I really think (Nolasco and Hughes) are going to anchor the staff.”

Nolasco has pitched an entire eight-year career in the National League. But Blyleven, a former Twins pitcher, who won 287 games and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, said he is not concerned about the transition.

“I did that from the American League to the National League,” Blyleven said. “It’s no different. You try to throw strikes and keep the ball down and hopefully things go your way.”

The back end of the rotation remains influx. Kevin Correia appears to be the only rotation lock among the incumbents.

Minnesota also this winter re-signed Mike Pelfrey, who will be two years removed from undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2012.

Twins President Dave St. Peter said there probably isn’t a team out there that feels it has done enough to address its pitching. But he did say considerable strides have been made.

“Keep the faith,” St. Peter said. “We’ll be better. We believe we’ll pitch better. I think our fans need to see some progress in 2014. We’re optimistic that will happen, largely because we’ve addressed our starting staff and ultimately we’ll score enough runs.”


Readers can reach Forum Assistant Sports Editor

Hayden Goethe at (701) 241-5558