On Deck will be here all season to provide you with everything you need to know (and a few things you don't) about every Rangers series during the 2012 season.
The Opponent: It's another date with the Rangers' cosmic cousins in Minnesota. The two franchises that used to be the Washington Senators don't have too much other common ground, at least not since they realigned the divisions, but at least the commonality they have is on the unique side of things.
2011 Rewind: The Twins did not have much fun last season and most of the reason why was injuries to Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. When you build your team around two players, it really helps if they don't miss huge chunks of the season with the kinds of injuries that make you wonder if they'll ever reach their old heights again. It didn't help than Francisco Liriano lost his ability to throw the ball over the plate with regularity, either. Like we said, not much fun.
Pitching Matchups: Friday - Matt Harrison (1-0, 0.00) vs. Anthony Swarzak (0-1, 1.80); Saturday - Yu Darvish (1-0, 7.94) vs. Nick Blackburn (0-1, 7.50); Sunday - Neftali Feliz (1-0, 0.00) vs. Liam Hendriks (0-2, 6.17 ERA in 2011)
What's Hot: The early returns on Mauer and Morneau haven't been overwhelming, but they have been encouraging. Both of them homered in Thursday's 10-9 win over the Angels and they've been able to be in the lineup every day for the Twins. That's good for them and good for baseball because no one wants to see good players cut down before their time is up.
If this is how Ian Kinsler is going to respond to a new contract, the Rangers should hook him up more often. As good as Kinsler has been throughout his career, we've always wondered what a full season of his best work would look like when all is said and done. Multiply these last seven games 20-odd times and you'll get the answer.
Michael Young's doing his best to make it look like 2011 wasn't just an upward spike amid a general decline phase of his career. We're not really looking forward to anyone else mistaking him for an MVP candidate this season, but it would continue what was an otherwise nice story from the 2011 season.
What's Not: Bullpen management has never been Ron Washington's strong suit and it doesn't appear that he took any classes this offseason to improve his ability to do it. He's pitched Mike Adams five times in the first seven games and used Joe Nathan and Alexi Ogando four times apiece while the rest of the bullpen has combined for five appearances. He might not trust the other guys, but he can't develop trust without giving them a chance to earn it.
The Twins are short on young talent, which is why it would be really nice for them if Ben Revere developed into a worthwhile outfielder. He's not playing every day in Ron Gardenhire's lineup and isn't getting on base enough to use his speed when he does get into the lineup.
The three guys pitching for the Twins this weekend wouldn't make many other rotations around the league. It should go without saying that it isn't a plus to have three such guys.
Familiar Faces: Joe Nathan returns to face the team that trusted him with the ninth inning for a good long time. If his weekend looks anything like his performance on Wednesday night, there will likely be some people in Texas calling for him to stay in Minneapolis a little bit longer.