The Minnesota Twins had high hopes for the season after a surprising run to the American League wild-card game in 2017.
They made a flurry of moves during an otherwise quiet offseason, adding Jake Odorizzi and Lance Lynn to a rotation that already included Kyle Gibson and Jose Berrios, and banked on improvement from younger talents such as Miguel Sano.
None of those paid off the way Minnesota hoped. The Twins will miss the playoffs this season after a series of frustrations and setbacks, especially a rash of injuries.
Byron Buxton, Ervin Santana and Miguel Sano were all expected to play big roles in 2018 but spent significant time on the disabled list while Jorge Polanco missed 80 games for a PED suspension.
The personnel shortage led to the Twins dealing veterans Brian Dozier, Eduardo Escobar, Zach Duke, Fernando Rodney and Lynn at the deadline to restock the system with young talent.
Manager Paul Molitor admits the shortage was frustrating but refuses to use it as an excuse.
"You don't ever want to sound like we're making excuses," Molitor said. "Every team has to deal with certain things along the way. We had some things that went not according to plan, and we had to make adjustments. Sometimes we did well and sometimes not so well.
"I think our guys learned, they're continuing to learn. There was an obvious fallback from last year what we were able to do, so expectations weren't met, but I still try to look for positives."
Molitor will again turn to an opener Thursday when the Twins wrap up a three-game series with Detroit at Target Field in Minneapolis.
Left-hander Gabriel Moya will fill the role for the sixth time this season and a fourth time against the Tigers, who haven't scored a run on him. Moya has six strikeouts in six innings while allowing three hits and two walks versus Detroit in 2018.
The Tigers rolled 11-4 on Wednesday, roughing up Odorizzi for four runs and six hits while benefiting from five walks in three-plus innings.
"Truth be told, I'll probably forget about 2018 tomorrow," Odorizzi told reporters. "I'm going to focus on next year, improving and getting back to the pitcher I am and that this team deserves.
"Take the good from this season. I made all my starts. I remained healthy. It was by no means a year that I'm proud of, but a year that I learned a lot from. So if I can make the adjustments next year and stay healthy, I'm in for a lot better and will show the fans a lot better too."
Another lefty, rookie Stephen Gonsalves, will serve as the primary pitcher while the Tigers turn to former Twins left-hander Francisco Liriano in what might be his final appearance as a Tiger.
Lirano has recorded three consecutive quality starts, though he allowed three unearned runs over six innings in a loss to the Royals on Friday.
Minnesota's Logan Forsythe is in a 1-for-18 slump but is 7-for-12 in his career versus Liriano.
Molitor won his 300th game Wednesday against 343 losses since becoming manager in 2015.
"It snuck up on me a little bit," Molitor said. "Didn't realize it until Joe Mauer acknowledged it after the game, which was nice. I guess baseball likes round numbers. Would like to get to 300 wins already before you have seen 300 losses, but that hasn't been the case. Keep moving forward."
The Twins won 10 of the first 18 meetings this season and have already wrapped up their second consecutive season series victory.