The Minnesota team was once the Washington team in not quite the same way that Istanbul was once Constantinople. In 1961 Minnesota looked exactly like Washington—old, tired, poor. In 1962, however, the Minnesota Twins were young, alert and rich and looked like true contenders for the American League pennant. Within the next two seasons the Twins could win an American League pennant—and maybe even two. Sam Mele, the thoughtful manager who takes batting practice with his team (to give it something to laugh at), says, "We have to be considered a strong club. The one thing we lack is another good right-handed starting pitcher to go with Camilo Pascual."
The Twins entered spring training with 12 of their 23 pitchers throwing left-handed, and this is imbalance of the wildest order. Three of Minnesota's four starters are left-handed—Jim Kaat, Jack Kralick and Dick Stigman—and thus the other teams can load their batting orders with right-handed hitters against them. "We have tried all winter long to get a right-hander," says Club President Cal Griffith, "and we'll keep trying. If only we could get half a Pascual."
Camilo Pascual is considered an old man now at 29. "We play so good last year," he says. "I am just about useless for 34 days, and yet we only lose to the Yankees by five games. It used to be that when the ball was hit on the ground I'd close my eyes and try to figure if it would be a single, a double or a home run. But last year when the ball was hit on the ground I'd be happy because I knew that we had some players who could catch the ball. We have the good young left-handed pitchers, but if we could get another right-hander it would make things so much easier. There were days when those left-handers saw nothing but right-handed hitters marching up there. If we get the right-hander we finish real good. With another right-handed pitcher we surprise everyone even more than last year."
The Twins must get that right-hander to make things easier for themselves and harder for the rest of the league.
Harmon Killebrew has averaged 41 homers and 108 RBIs in his four full seasons in the majors (see page 85), and, at 26, should just be approaching his prime. Bob Allison knocked in over 100 runs the past two seasons, scored 102 runs himself in 1962 and had a slugging percentage of .511. Lenny Green is underrated as a hitter (.271), and not many can move the bat around better. He also has the most speed of any player on the club. Rich Rollins batted .298 and knocked in 96 runs, while Bernie Allen proved to be a good late-inning hitter, although his average was only .269. Jim Lemon, out almost all of last year for surgery on his left shoulder, can be a valuable pinch hitter. In 1959 and 1960 he hit 71 homers and had 200 RBIs. Despite an off year, Earl Battey is still a feared long-ball man. Vic Power doesn't get many homers but he is a steady hitter (.290).
The Minnesota pitching staff produced more complete games (53) than any other American League team last year. Pascual (20-11) completed 18, and now that he realizes he no longer has to strike everyone out is a most effective pitcher. Kaat may look like Hiram Hayshaker but he won 18, lost 14 last season and is still only 24 years old. Kaat has a little trouble with hit batsmen, mostly right-handed ones; his curve ball breaks in low to a right-handed hitter and often catches him between the knee and ankle on the lead foot. Kaat hit 18 last year, many of them at bad times. Kralick completed four of his last eight starts and one of them was a no-hitter against Kansas City. He has a tendency to give up too many home runs (30) and his 12-11 record needs to be improved. Stigman, who came to the Twins in the same deal as Power, has a good fast ball and a roundhouse curve. He was 9-3 after being converted into a starter on July 18. The relief pitching of Ray Moore, Billy Pleis and Lee Stange is adequate.
The Twins have a solid, set infield that is the equal of any in the American League. Ancient Vic Power, at 31, puffs up the average age of the infield to 25. Nonetheless, he is still the flashiest first baseman in baseball Shortstop Zorro Versalles is starting his third season as the regular shortstop even though he is only 22. Versalles and Allen (23) are a fast double-play combination, and Rollins (24) is a good third baseman who has a little trouble fielding topped balls. Battey, the American League All-Star catcher, is unexcelled in handling pitchers. The outfield of Killebrew, Green and Allison is more noted for its hitting; only Green has outstanding defensive speed and ability.