Well at least Joe Mauer, Jim Thome, and the rest of the Minnesota Twins will be well rested. They only needed to put in 27 innings of postseason baseball.

After the Twins clinched the AL Central division title on September 21, manager Ron Gardenhire put the team on cruise control allowing his regulars to rest and get healthy.

With another early exit to the Evil Empire known as the New York Yankees, Gardenhire’s strategy backfired, and now the manager of the year candidate may find himself on the hot seat. 

Instead of having a well rested, finely tuned ball club that won the most games in the second half of the season, they entered the playoffs rusty, and ill prepared after losing eight of their last 11 games of the season.

Even having the home field advantage in pitcher-friendly confines of Target Field, where the Twins had the best home record in the American League, could not help them. 

Yet once again the Twins have gone down to defeat at the hands of the New York Yankees in the divisional round of the playoffs. Gardenhires’ playoff record is 6-21, and 1-10 against New York.

In consolation they can point to the fact that they were not the victims of a no-hitter, and nearly beat Cy Young candidate CC Sabathia.

Mauer, the reigning AL MVP, was not a factor in the series going three for 12 with no runs scored and no RBI.

Delmon Young, who led the team with 112 runs batted in, did not drive in a single postseason run.

Only four Twins in the series had two hits in the same game.  

The Twins who entered post season with the third best regular season batting average of .273, could only muster a .220 average against the Yankees, while New York hit a playoff best .292 in sweeping the Twins. 

With a brand new stadium and the tenth highest payroll in baseball, the expectations this year were far greater than any other year in Gardenhire’s tenure as manager.

Winning the AL Central, the sixth title in his nine seasons, is no longer enough.

The Twins go into the off season with several questions and concerns.

Will Justin Morneau be able to return from the concussion he suffered in July, or like former Twins’ third baseman, Corey Koskie, never shake the effects and end up retiring?

Was the wear and tear of catching too much for Mauer and caused his poor performance in the ALDS?

Speculation around Mauer changing positions will resurface—in the event Morneau does not return, should Mauer be the Twins’ next first baseman? 

Will general manager Bill Smith address the desperate lack of power this off season?

Can and should Smith sign Thome for next year, who led the Team with 25 home runs this season?

Yet, there are still some bright spots from 2010.

There’s hope for next year if 26-year-old Francisco Liriano, and 27-year-old Brian Duensing can continue to improve and develop into consistent starters. 

Along with Carl Pavano, these three make a pretty good foundation to build a starting rotation, but one of them has to emerge as the clear ace of the staff.

Young had a breakout year, finally producing like many people expected. Only 24-years old, Young has the opportunity to be a cornerstone player along with Mauer. 

The 2011 season will be a pivotal one for Gardenhire. The novelty of Target Field and the lure of outdoor baseball will still draw big crowds to the park, but anything short of making it to the World Series could spell the end of his reign as the Twins’ skipper.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com