MASON CITY — What does going from a 100-loss team to making the playoff the very next year do for a club? Ask the Minnesota Twins with the excitement surrounding their team once again.
That excitement was on display Wednesday night as the Twins rolled into town for their annual Winter Caravan stop in front of a nearly packed crowd at Music Man Square in Mason City. Even with the excitement, their message was that there is still a lot of work to be done, and last year can serve as something to build on.
“We dealt with some adversity during the trade deadline and just rallied together and played really well in the second half,” Twins outfielder and designated hitter Robbie Grossman said. “It was cool because it was the same group of guys with a couple of additions, and the way we played, we have some really good momentum coming into this year.”
That right there is something the Twins are preaching — using a bunch of young guys who have played together for a long time in the minors to help them win in the majors. It’s the blueprint for success now for many teams after seeing what Houston did to win the World Series last season.
The Astros took a bunch of young talent, groomed them all together and the wins eventually came around. After the Twins' down year in the 2016 campaign with young players sprinkled all over the place, they took that to heart.
“We wanted to become better,” short stop Jorge Polanco said. “We lost 100 games the year before and we just wanted to do better and become a better team.
“We just stayed focused together and kept pushing together as a team and we did it.”
Last season saw the true emergence of the players the Twins have been grooming.
Polanco grew into his spot at short stop, Miguel Sano continued to blossom as a hitter and third baseman, Max Kepler took big leaps in the outfield, Eddie Rosario was one of the Twins’ best players down the stretch, and Byron Buxton turned himself into a Gold Glove outfielder and his hitting came around at the plate. Mix in the all-star Brian Dozier and his bat, Jason Castro behind the plate, Grossman, plus the steady Joe Mauer, and the Twins found a recipe for success on offense.
And on the mound, Minnesota built a formidable staff with Ervin Santana, Jose Berrios and Kyle Gibson leading the way.
All this put together was why the Twins were able to play in the AL wild card game vs. the New York Yankees, but even that — an 8-4 loss — still left the Twins wanting more.
“I learned a lot,” Polanco said. “We played in the playoffs and we (lost), but we learned a lot, we know we were there and we can get farther.”
The Twins have almost all of their core players back for this season, plus a few additions, including long-time reliever Fernando Rodney in the bullpen.
With spring training less than a month away, building forward is their only goal.
“We’re just going to have fun and get ready for the season and try to do what we did last,” Polanco said. "We’re going to go in with more energy, with more passion to play in the playoffs.”