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Peterson: Twins spending more, now wins must follow

The cuddly, little-engine-that-could is morphing into a high-powered locomotive right before our eyes. The Minnesota Twins are no longer the scrappy little underdog that their fans have grown to love.

Some project the Twins are likely to have a higher 2010 Opening Day payroll than the big-market Los Angeles Dodgers.

Heading into the team's inaugural season at Target Field, the Twins brass is living up to its promise of a larger payroll with the new ballpark.

While they are not in the Yankees and Red Sox stratosphere, the Twins have elevated out of the small-market realm, at least on paper for this season.

The team has shot from the bottom 10 to the edge of the top 10 payrolls in one offseason. At this point, the Twins projected Opening Day payroll is $96 million, a bump of $31 million from a season ago.

That $96 million total would have tied the Twins for 12th highest Opening Day payroll in 2009. The Twins are in a position they have not been in over the last few seasons. Fans expect them to win the AL Central this summer.

They spent $7 million on a veteran pitcher (Carl Pavano), $5 million on an All-Star second baseman (Orlando Hudson), $1.5 million for a bat off the bench (Jim Thome) and traded a cheap speedy outfielder (Carlos Gomez) for a shortstop (J.J. Hardy) that will cost them around $5 million.

Those players have been added to a core group that features two MVPs, catcher Joe Mauer and first baseman Justin Morneau.

The point being the higher payroll means higher expectations.

Winning the AL Central is not enough this season. One-and-done does not cut it anymore.

The Twins have not won a playoff game since 2004 and have not made it out of the first round since 2002.

The Twins are 3-16 in their last 19 playoff games.

That puts pressure on manager Ron Gardenhire, who has usually done more with less.

Now it's time to see if Gardy can do more with more.