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After early stumble, Twins never found footing

Injuries followed an 0-9 start to dash optimism hatched from '15 campaign
MLB.com @RhettBollinger

MINNEAPOLIS -- After a surprising 2015 campaign that saw the Twins contend for their first postseason berth since 2010, they took a major step backward this season, losing more than 100 games for the second time since the franchise moved to Minnesota in 1961.

The Twins believed they could compete in 2016, but after an 0-9 start, they never got back into contention. It cost longtime general manager Terry Ryan his job, as he was dismissed in July. A lack of quality pitching was the main culprit, as Minnesota finished with the worst ERA in the American League.

MINNEAPOLIS -- After a surprising 2015 campaign that saw the Twins contend for their first postseason berth since 2010, they took a major step backward this season, losing more than 100 games for the second time since the franchise moved to Minnesota in 1961.

The Twins believed they could compete in 2016, but after an 0-9 start, they never got back into contention. It cost longtime general manager Terry Ryan his job, as he was dismissed in July. A lack of quality pitching was the main culprit, as Minnesota finished with the worst ERA in the American League.

Young Twins will get fresh start in 2017

It was a disappointing season for the Twins, who had high expectations coming into the year, but they will now lean on a new front-office regime to turn the franchise around.

"To go from where we were last year to the complete turnaround we've had this year is mind-boggling," Twins second baseman Brian Dozier said. "But at the same time, we haven't done a lot of things right. So this offseason, I don't want to say it's the biggest one ever for this organization, but you can make the case that it is."

Record: 59-103, fifth in AL Central

Defining moment: The Twins never could recover from their 0-9 start, and they finished April with a 7-17 record. Minnesota was never in contention the rest of the way, but the club did play better in July (15-11) before struggling again over the final two months.

What went right: Despite not being named an All-Star, Dozier emerged into a star, breaking the AL record for homers by a second baseman. He became just the second Twins player to hit more than 40 homers, joining Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew.

Video: DET@MIN: Dozier homers, sets AL second basemen record

After missing half of last season because of a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs, right-hander Ervin Santana pitched a full season and was undoubtedly the club's ace.

Brandon Kintzler was a pleasant surprise as Minnesota's closer, but he didn't get many save chances. Other solid bullpen arms included Ryan Pressly and Taylor Rogers.

Infielder Eduardo Nunez had a career year en route to being named an All-Star for the first time. The Twins were able to flip him to the Giants for pitching prospect Adalberto Mejia at the Trade Deadline.

Center fielder Byron Buxton finally showed off his immense potential with a strong showing offensively in September.

Video: MIN@KC: Buxton reaches 21.4 mph on standup triple

Rookies Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco both had solid seasons -- especially Kepler, who established himself as the club's right fielder of the future. Polanco has work to do defensively, but was the club's regular shortstop for most of the second half.

What went wrong: The Twins dealt with several injuries, including losing three-time All-Star closer Glen Perkins to labrum surgery that could jeopardize his career, and right-hander Phil Hughes underwent season-ending rib resection surgery to relieve thoracic outlet syndrome.

Designated hitter Byungho Park, who was signed from Korea, showed flashes of his power but spent time at Triple-A Rochester before undergoing season-ending hand surgery.

Third baseman Trevor Plouffe dealt with injuries throughout the year, especially with his oblique. It limits his value heading into the offseason, as he could be a trade piece to make room for Miguel Sano at third base. The Sano experiment in right field early in the year also didn't work out, and he's not expected to be asked to play outfield again.

Setup man Trevor May went on the 15-day disabled list three times because of back injuries. The Twins plan to move him back to starting next year to help relieve some of those symptoms.

Video: KC@MIN: May strikes out Cain to end top of 7th

First baseman Joe Mauer dealt with quad strains over the last month of the season, and he saw his numbers dip as the season went on.

Catcher John Ryan Murphy, who was acquired from the Yankees for outfielder Aaron Hicks, spent most of the year at Triple-A and struggled offensively in the Majors. The Twins will be looking for catching help this offseason as a result.

Hitter of the Year: Dozier is the obvious choice, and he could receive some AL MVP Award votes with his impressive year, despite Minnesota's struggles. Dozier reached the 40-homer plateau for the first time in his career, and he fell one RBI short of becoming the first Twins player since Michael Cuddyer in 2006 to have more than 100 RBIs and 100 runs scored in a season.

Pitcher of the Year: Santana started off the season slow, but from mid-June until the end of the season, he had one of the best ERAs in the AL. The veteran right-hander had one of the best seasons of his career, but he didn't have many wins to show for it.

Rookie of the Year: Kepler gets the nod over Polanco, because he played in more games and showed more power while also playing strong defense in right field. Kepler showed off his potential with a pair of epic games, driving in a Twins rookie record seven runs against the Rangers on July 2 and hitting three homers against the Indians on Aug. 1.

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast.

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