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Pablo López and Twins gloves mark opening day victory

Before the 2019 season, the Twins decided to change their philosophy to reflect the new reality of baseball.

The analytical approach to scoring races, in general, had favored a mix of patience and power. The Twins’ brain trust decided to emphasize power, in part because they believed baseballs would leap off baseball diamonds as if fired from T-shirt cannons. Then they won 101 games while setting a league record for homers.

Ahead of the 2023 season, the Twins again changed their philosophy to reflect the new reality of baseball.

While the game tends to reward pitch, depth and throwing speed, they’ve built their most impressive season-opening rotation in decades, assembled their deepest and most impressive bullpen since Johan Santana was a middle reliever and committed to a versatile and often spectacular lineup of defenders. .

Seen in this light, their 2-0 victory over Kansas City on the opening day of the 2023 season approached perfection.

With the exception of Carlos Correa’s game show-style free agency, the Twins’ biggest move this winter was trading champion batting Luis Arráez for starting pitcher Pablo López.

López got the start on Opening Day and Thursday pitched 5 ⅓ scoreless innings, striking out eight.

Byron Buxton, who in February was complaining about playing as a designated hitter, went 2 for 5 with a triple that led to the go-ahead.

Correa, Michael A. Taylor and first baseman Joey Gallo made significant plays on the field and the reinforced bullpen produced 3 ⅔ scoreless innings, with Jhoan Duran earning the stoppage.

The 2023 Twins are deep and talented, and they may have to win a lot of low-scoring games while they wait for two midrange hitters – Jorge Polanco and Alex Kirilloff – to recover from injuries and join the big league team.

On Thursday in Kansas City, they got just enough from their run producers, with Buxton getting two hits and interim cleanup hitter Trevor Larnach producing the RBI go-ahead with a single.

But López was the story of the day and could become the story of the season.

The last time the Twins had a real ace, that ace was a Venezuelan in his twenties who went through a devastating change.

Few pitchers in the game’s history could match Santana’s change, and López has a lot to go before he warrants a comparison with a former Cy Young winner, but they do have this in common:

Step separation.

Santana threw a 94 mph fastball, an 87 mph slider and a 78 mph changeover. Then-Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson would say that while most pitchers tried to fool batters by pitching up and down or out and in, Santana made the area of three-dimensional strike. A batter could not set up for a pitch and time either of the other two.

On Thursday, López featured a 96mph fastball, an 89mph shifter and an 83mph slider. Although he pitches his change harder than Santana, he presents the same problem to hitters: they can’t set up for a pitch and handle others.

“He’s our ace for a reason,” Buxton told Bally Sports North of López. “He went out there and did his thing and pissed us off until we could get those races through.

“Having him is pretty amazing.”

Forgive this simplistic and perhaps irrelevant observation: López looks like an ace. He is 6-4 and 225 pounds, with much of his bulk in his thighs.

He also acts like an ace, with a mixture of poise and confidence.

“What do you want more?” said Twins manager Rocco Baldelli. “What else do you want? Competitive in nature. He executed really well…He found himself whenever he needed to. His work was great and he was composed and he did a really good job. “

At times last season with the Marlins, he pitched like an ace, and the Twins brain trust looked at his work and pitch mix and believed they could push him to sustained excellence.

The match lasted 2:32. Given the Twins’ inexperienced pitching, lineouts and hitters, this team’s games could go by quickly and the season could last quite a long time.

The Star Tribune did not send the author of this article to the game. It was written using a broadcast, interviews and other documents.

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