Opposite dugout: Twins out to prove 2017 wasn't an anomaly

Manager: Paul Molitor (4th season)
TwinsLogo.jpg

Record: 85-77 (2nd in AL Central in 2017; captured 2nd AL wild card)

Last 10 games: Season opener

Who to watch: 2B Brian Dozier (.271 average, 34 HR, 93 RBIs); 3B Miguel Sanó (.264 average, 28 HR, 77 RBIs); CF Byron Buxton (.253 average, 29 SB); RHP José Berríos (14-8, 3.89 ERA); RHP Lance Lynn (11-8, 3.43 ERA)

Season series vs. Orioles: First meeting (5-2 in 2017)

Pitching probables:

March 29: RHP Jake Odorizzi (10-8, 4.14 ERA) vs. RHP Dylan Bundy (13-9, 4.24 ERA); 3:05 p.m., MASN
March 31: RHP Kyle Gibson (12-10, 5.07 ERA) vs. RHP Andrew Cashner (11-11, 3.40 ERA); 7:05 p.m., MASN2
April 1: RHP José Berríos (14-8, 3.89 ERA) vs. RHP Kevin Gausman (11-12, 4.68 ERA); 1:05 p.m., MASN

Inside the Twins:

Of the Orioles' nine series in March and April, five are against 2017 playoff teams. In fact, the first 10 games will pit the Birds against teams that made the postseason a year ago.

Nobody said the road to the playoffs was going to be easy.

The Orioles' first test comes in the form of the Twins, who travel to Camden Yards for a three-game series to kick off the 2018 season. Minnesota was one of the darlings of 2017, springboarding from a last-place finish two seasons ago and making the franchise's first playoff appearance since 2010. The Twins are led by reigning American League Manager of the Year Paul Molitor, and are out to prove last year was no fluke.

A pair of sluggers in Brian Dozier and Miguel Sanó lead the charge for the Twins on offense. Dozier has clubbed 76 home runs over the last two seasons and earned his first Gold Glove last year for his work at second base. Sanó, meanwhile, made his first All-Star Game appearance after hitting .264 with 28 home runs and 77 RBIs. Speedster Byron Buxton is hoping for a repeat of last year - at least the second half. Buxton endured a dismal start to 2017, hitting just .216 before the All-Star break, but followed it up with a .300 average and 13 stolen bases to finish the season on a high note. He enters 2018 as one of the most dangerous runners along the base paths. The Twins will be without shortstop Jorge Polanco. The 24-year-old was suspended 80 games last week after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. Polanco played in 133 games last year - all but two at shortstop - and drove in 74 runs in his first full-time season.

Jake Odorizzi, who came over from Tampa Bay in an offseason trade, gets the opening day start for Minnesota. Odorizzi is certainly no stranger to the Orioles, having faced them 18 times during his career. The right-hander is 5-4 lifetime against Baltimore, and went 2-0 with a 3.10 ERA versus the O's a year ago. Kyle Gibson, meanwhile, didn't fare as well against the Orioles last year. He went 1-1 in two starts, but gave up at least six earned runs in both appearances. Interestingly enough, Gibson posted a better record on the road last season (6-3, 4.34 ERA) than at home (6-7, 5.72 ERA). He'll start Saturday night opposite Orioles newcomer Andrew Cashner. Right-hander José Berríos will start Sunday's series finale. He's coming off of a brilliant season in which he went 14-8 with a 3.89 ERA. Berríos went 2-0 last season against the Orioles, including a quality start on May 24 at Camden Yards.

In the bullpen, the Twins will turn to Fernando Rodney, who signed with Minnesota during the offseason. He picked up 39 saves with the Diamondbacks last season, and since the Twins shipped former closer Brandon Kintzler to the Nationals at last year's trade deadline, Rodney should be a welcome addition. Joining Rodney in the bullpen will be relievers Addison Reed, Ryan Pressly and Trevor Hildenberger.

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