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Twins' new season: New beginning or more of the same?

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Opening Day for the Minnesota Twins is less than a day away. It's a day when hope springs eternal for Twins fans who have watched their favorite team lose many more games than they've won, for more years than they care to remember.

The dawn of a new baseball season brings a sense of optimism that this year will be better than last year, even if the evidence indicates otherwise.

The Twins made several moves in the off-seasonto try to boost their winning chances, replacing manager Ron Gardenhire with popular but untested Paul Molitor and bringing back fan favorite Torii Hunter to the team.

They also signed Ervin Santana to a big contract to boost the starting pitching rotation.

But now Santana is suspended for the first half of the season because he tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug, and some of the Twins' brightest prospects are back in the minors.

That means some of the same questions about the Twins' pitching staff are being raised again, as Star Tribune sports writer Jim Souhan notes.

GM Terry Ryan said a few weeks ago that he thinks the Twins have a realistic shot at reaching the playoffs this year.

"A lot of things will have to happen for us to get there, there’s no doubt. But there’s no reason for us not to be in that mix,” he said.

But other baseball observers are not so optimistic. For example, Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci believes the Twins are one of only a few teams that are incapable of contending for a playoff spot. SI.com predicts the Twins will finish 67-95 this summer.

And Molitor's chance for success is not considered very high by the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo, who ranked all 30 managers in Major League Baseball and put Molitor at the very bottom of the list.

Locally, St. Paul Pioneer Press columnist Tom Powers writes the Twins have told their fans for the past four losing seasons to "wait, wait, wait because help was on the way. Yet nothing has happened." And he expects this season to be another disappointment, "another aimless season of gloom."

If the Twins do want to compete, they can help themselves by getting off to a fast start. Minnesota opens the season with 15 straight games against the Tigers, Royals, Indians and White Sox.

Here’s Molitor's lineup for Monday's Opening Day game against the Tigers in Detroit:

Danny Santana SS

Brian Dozier 2B

Joe Mauer 1B

Torii Hunter RF

Kennys Vargas DH

Trevor Plouffe 3B

Oswaldo Arcia LF

Kurt Suzuki C

Jordan Schafer CF

Phil Hughes RHP

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