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 Tuesday, April 1, 2014
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 Rebuild works for Twins
  By: John Bonnes
For Major League Baseball teams, there is a window of opportunity to win a championship. Unless, of course, you’re the Pirates. Then it’s more like a knothole. Or the Yankees, who had some remodeling work done in the ’90s to have that wall removed entirely. But for the rest of the teams, there is a window of opportunity that is largely determined by the health of their minor leagues. 

The Twins window slammed shut in 2011 when their team was decimated by concussions, bi-lateral leg weakness and locusts. Any hope of it reopening last year was dashed when injuries to their starting rotation revealed just how barren the minor league system had become. And, unfortunately, it’s going to remain closed this year.

It was bound to happen. They extended that window a full decade, something usually only wealthy teams can accomplish. They also converted that window into a new outdoor home, one that is going to let the sun shine on otherwise dreary seasons.

However, last year’s problem, a starting pitching rotation that ranked as the second worst in the majors, only nominally improved. The optimist will point out that the three offseason acquisitions — Vance Worley, Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey — should be quite a bit better than last year’s patchwork. The cynic might suggest that the Twins acquired two fifth starters and a guy rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Both are right.

Instead, Twins General Manager Terry Ryan’s biggest moves focused on the next window. He traded away center fielders Denard Span AND Ben Revere for three young pitchers, including two high-upside prospects who could begin the year in AA. The hope is that they’ll eventually make their way to the majors along with Kyle Gibson, a #1 draft pick who worked his way back from Tommy John surgery last year and is in AAA. Those three, along with Scott Diamond and Worley, could man the rotation by the end of 2014.

But while pitching was the focus of the offseason, it’s the farm system’s hitters who are starting to garner national attention. Just about every minor league analyst listed the Twins farm teams as among the most loaded. For instance, Baseball America listed six Twins among the Top 100 in baseball. By comparison, the other four teams in the AL Central had nine players combined. 

That talent begins to arrive this year. Ryan was comfortable trading away Revere and Span because first round draft pick Aaron Hicks had a breakout season in AA last year. A hot spring has put him in position to be the starting center fielder on Opening Day. A complete athlete, he’s a potential All-Star, but he’s just 23, has never played a game in AAA and has a history of struggling initially when he moves up a level. He won’t lift the Twins to an AL Central title this year, but his development will be worth gauging and he should be a fun player to watch.

Over the next two years, you’re going to start seeing changes all around the rest of the diamond too. On Opening Day, right field will belong to 25-year-old outfielder Chris Parmelee. He had an almost historic year in AAA-Rochester last year. But even he might be bumped to first base before the year is out by Oswaldo Arcia, who has slugged his way through AA and is still just 21 years old. 

Hofstede and Frey square off in a candidate forum
City Council Member Diane Hofstede and Jacob Frey her challenger for the Third Ward council seat, squared off in a candidate forum Thursday night at DeLaSalle High School.

More than 200 people attended the event co-sponsored by the Journal and the League of Women Voters. The candidates answered questions from members of the audience on several topics, including affordable housing, transportation, their leadership style, development trends and urban farming, among other things.

By: Sarah McKenzie
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Arts >>
By Mike Munzenrider
Renovation plans for Orchestra Hall
The construction at Orchestra Hall crowds onto South 11th Street in downtown Minneapolis — transforming the once familiar concert venue, with its blue glass façade and big blue pipes, into a confusion of white tarps, particle-board and cranes.

While the Minnesota Orchestra is at an impasse with management and musicians over a new collective bargaining agreement, the Orchestra Hall renovation is moving ahead and on pace to be done this summer.

The $50 million renovation, which started last June, is set to update and improve the performance space’s auditorium and the hall’s lobby area.

Originally slated to be a $160 million reconstruction project, Henson said the project’s budget was scaled down incrementally by tens of millions of dollars, until it was $60 million near the end of 2007 when he took over as president and CEO.