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Individual success, changes highlight Twins' 2012

MINNEAPOLIS -- After a rough 2011 that saw Minnesota go from first to worst in the American League Central, the Twins were hoping for a brighter '12 campaign.

But the Twins struggled again last season and finished with the worst record in the AL for the second straight season.

It led to coaching staff changes, as they did not offer 2013 contracts to bullpen coach Rick Stelmaszek, third-base coach Steve Liddle, first-base coach Jerry White and head athletic trainer Rick McWane.

Additionally, the Twins reassigned hitting coach Joe Vavra to a new role as infielder instructor while also reassigning bench coach Scott Ullger to a new role as outfield instructor. They then named Tom Brunansky as hitting coach, Bobby Cuellar as bullpen coach and Terry Steinbach as bench coach after the season.

Twins general manager Terry Ryan has maintained he believes the club can compete this coming season, but he has also built for the future by trading Denard Span for pitching prospect Alex Meyer from Washington, and sending Ben Revere to Philadelphia for solid Major League starter Vance Worley and pitching prospect Trevor May.

Plenty went on with the Twins in 2012, and of all the storylines that played out over the past 12 months, here were the five biggest:

5. Josh Willingham wins first career Silver Slugger Award

Willingham proved to be a bright spot in his first year with the Twins, as the slugger set career highs in homers (35), RBIs (110), runs (85) and OPS (.890). He also played in a career-high 145 games and was able to avoid the disabled list. He proved to be one of the best signings in the offseason, as he joined the club on a three-year deal worth $21 million.

4. Joe Mauer returns to form and is an All-Star

There were plenty of questions about Mauer heading into the season after an injury-plagued 2011 season that saw him hit a career-low .287 in just 82 games. But Mauer bounced back in a big way, hitting .319 with a .416 on-base percentage that led the American League. He also played in a career-best 147 games and was an All-Star for the fifth time in his career.

3. Injuries ravage the rotation

It didn't take long for the club's rotation to fall apart, as Scott Baker ended up getting Tommy John surgery in April and never threw a pitch in 2012. Other starters such as Carl Pavano and Nick Blackburn dealt with injuries throughout the season, and others were just plain ineffective, such as Francisco Liriano and Jason Marquis. Add it all up, and the Twins used 12 starting pitchers who combined for the second-worst ERA in baseball.

2. Span and Revere traded

The Twins decided to add much-needed pitching into their organization, but it came at a price in early December, as they dealt Span and Revere just one week apart. But now the Twins have a reliable mid-rotation starter in Worley to join Scott Diamond, free-agent signee Kevin Correia and likely Kyle Gibson in the rotation in 2013, as well as two highly regarded prospects in May and Meyer. The Twins will now likely count on Darin Mastroianni to start in center field to open the season, with Chris Parmelee in right field. And center-field prospects Aaron Hicks and Joe Benson are waiting in the wings and will compete with Mastroianni for the job in Spring Training.

1. Ryan removes interim label

It was never really in doubt, but after serving as interim general manager in 2012, Ryan shed that label from his title and became the club's full-time general manager on Oct. 5. Ryan previously served as Minnesota's GM from '94-'07, winning four division titles along the way while building most of the core of the division-winning clubs under Bill Smith in '09 and '10. Ryan doesn't have an easy task ahead of him, but Twins ownership is confident in his ability to build a consistent winner, given his track record.

Minnesota Twins, Joe Benson, Kevin Correia, Scott Diamond, Kyle Gibson, Aaron Hicks, Darin Mastroianni, Joe Mauer, Josh Willingham, Vance Worley