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Q&A with's Alex Halsted

Over the weekend, I exchanged emails with Fox Sport North blogger Alex Halsted (nice Scandihoovian name there!) My feelings on the Tigers can be found at This is a great idea FSNorth has and FS Detroit should look into it! In any case, Halsted's responses to a couple of questions follow.

KM: What is behind this incredible 13-5 start (as of Sunday) to the Twins season?

AH: The big thing for the Twins thus far has been winning series. They haven't went on some long winning streak, they've more so jumped out to an early lead in each series and have now won six consecutive series the start the season.

In terms of what has won those games, it's been a combination of many things. Each starter has had a poor outing, but for the most part, they've each had a dominant one as well. Carl Pavano and Francisco Liriano have had several shutdown games. The bullpen has been good too. The Twins have been able to hold most leads with their middle relievers, and closer Jon Rauch has surprised most people three weeks in.

The offense has scored, but most of the damage has been done by the middle of the order with Mauer, Morneau and Cuddyer. Denard Span and Jason Kubel have really struggled, and the Twins have one of the lowest batting averages with runners in scoring position. The team has drawn a league-leading 92 walks, and that has helped them score more runs with fewer hits. The fact that the Twins have won 13 games with their offense still not clicking has fans excited about the possibility of this team running on all cylinders.

Will the Twins feel the loss of Joe Nathan over the course of a 162-game season and how does the rest of the bullpen look after Jon Rauch's promotion to closer?

Losing Joe Nathan isn't easy, and no matter how good Jon Rauch is, they'll miss their All-Star closer. When the Twins initially lost Nathan, many said what would hurt the team more than filling the closer role would be the domino effect in the other bullpen spots.

So far, Rauch has been outstanding. He recently blew his first save, but he battled through the rest of the inning and then pitched the next to re-secure the victory. Nathan closed out nearly 90% of save opportunities, and that will be hard for Rauch to match. If he can be an above-average closer, things might be fine.

The big thing will be handing the ball to Rauch with a lead. So far Matt Guerrier has been spectacular, and Pat Neshek has returned well from Tommy John Surgery. Two players who have struggled so far at times, Jose Mijares (currently on the DL) and Jesse Crain, could be keys as the season progresses.

Francisco Liriano has started wonderfully this year (1.29 ERA today). What got him back on track and can he keep it up?

Liriano had a spectacular off-season in both the winter league and spring training. With the two combined, the lefty struck out 97 in a just 68.2 innings. What was more impressive was that he walked just 12 batters. There seem to be two key reasons for his success: he has gained some of his velocity back and his control has drastically improved.

Those numbers left fans cautiously optimistic coming into the season, and so far he has continued the trend. There is still improvement to be made and it'll probably take more than one more to prove he's for real, but it's nice to see nonetheless.

Personally, I feel like people made too big a deal over the effects of the Twins moving outside to Target Field. The team is 6-3 there so far. Has anything about the field (playing dimensions, the lack of a ceiling... ) changed the way they approach the game?

The change of venue hasn't been nearly as big as many made it out to be, but there are some things that are a little different. It seems the outfielders, particularly Michael Cuddyer, are still learning. There is no longer a soft baggy in right field; now the ball bounces hard back toward the infield and when a ball hits the limestone overhang, there is a good chance for a quirky play.

Other than the new aspects, the only thing that might be affecting the team is the weather elements, and, with that, the wind. Balls hit to the gaps have died down, and there have been a few balls hit that seem as if they'd have been homeruns previously. Then again, the wind has pushed a few further too.

Thanks, Alex!


You can follow Alex on Twitter during the series at @TwinsTerritory.