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Column - Twins due a championship

Forty-eight days, two hours, 38 minutes and 42 seconds.

That is how much longer Twins fans will have to wait for one of the most anticipated home openers in Minnesota history as of this past Tuesday at 11:31 a.m.

It is not just the unveiling of Target Field that should have fans excited. It's the players that will take the field on April 12 that should create the most buzz.

Twins' General Manager Bill Smith took a lot of criticism for some of the moves he made when he first took over for Terry Ryan in September of 2007. The popular opinion is that he should have gotten more for Johan Santana. Delmon Young has shown flashes but needs to put together a full season to justify giving up on Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett.

Both those trades could be scrutinized, but not his recent body of work. Smith has assembled a team that looks capable of not just winning another division title, but of making a deep run in the playoffs.

Signing Orlando Hudson was the biggest move made this off-season. Hudson made his second All-Star game and won his fourth gold glove last season with the Dodgers. The Twins could not have found a better available player to fill second base and the No. 2 spot in their lineup. He will see plenty of fastballs with Joe Mauer behind him. His .282 career batting average suggests he knows what to do with them.

Hudson's signing is the one that surprised me the most. The Twins got Jim Thome to take a huge pay cut from $13 million in 2009 to $1.5 million plus incentives in 2010. Hudson's signing pushed the Twins' payroll to around $96 million this summer. I thought Nick Punto would enter the Hall of Fame before the Twins would have a payroll of almost $100 million.

Give Smith and the Pohlad family credit for that. This team is moving into one of the nicest stadiums in all of baseball this summer. Now the Pohlads are showing their appreciation to the fans who helped fund that stadium by putting a quality product on the field.

This lineup stacks up with the best in baseball. The Yankees' Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez are the only duo that can match the star power of Mauer and Justin Morneau hitting back-to-back in an AL lineup.

If there is a question mark on this team, it comes in the starting staff. The Twins have about four No. 3 starters. They need a legitimate ace to step up. Having Francisco Liriano regain his form like Cliff Lee did in 2008 would be perfect. The reports from winter ball say Liriano's velocity and slider are back. It seems like we read that every year, so I am taking a wait-and-see approach.

All the other starters, Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, Carl Pavano - they're all good pitchers. They just don't dominate like the front three of either Boston or New York in a playoff series.

That does not mean the Twins could not beat either of those teams come the postseason. Anything can happen in October. And right now, Twins fans should feel more optimistic about their chances than at any other time during the Ron Gardenhire era.

In fact, I'm calling it. The Twins are going to win the World Series in 2010. Minnesota is due a championship after the turnover fiasco in the NFC title game.

This is the Twins' year. Forty-six days, 22 hours, 46 minutes and 55 seconds. It's getting closer.

"It's Our Turn" is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

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