The Minnesota Twins have finalized their overhauled coaching staff, hiring two familiar former players and a well-regarded minor league teacher to assist manager Ron Gardenhire.
Tom Brunansky is the new hitting coach, Bobby Cuellar will be the bullpen coach and Terry Steinbach has been tabbed as the bench coach and catching instructor, the team announced Monday.
The Twins earlier let go three of Gardenhire’s long-time assistants; third base coach Steve Liddle, bullpen coach Rick Stelmaszek and first base coach Jerry White, plus head trainer Rick McWane, a reaction to a second straight season of close to 100 losses.
Pitching coach Rick Anderson was the only one who kept the same role. Scott Ullger, most recently the bench coach, was reassigned to first base coach and outfielder instructor. Joe Vavra was moved from hitting coach to third base coach and infield instructor.
Brunansky, the right fielder on Minnesota’s 1987 World Series championship team who spent six-plus of his 14 major league seasons with the Twins, was the hitting coach for Triple-A Rochester this year. He was a coach with the organization’s rookie league team in 2010 and was the hitting coach at Double-A New Britain in 2011. His quick rise and the positive reviews from players framed him as an obvious candidate to eventually join the major league staff, but general manager Terry Ryan said he didn’t have a hidden motive.
”You’re not only developing players in the minor leagues, but you’re also developing staff for future opportunities,” Ryan said. ”That wasn’t the intention at the time because we didn’t anticipate going through another tough year. It just happened that way.”
Ryan acknowledged the benefit of having recognizable, accomplished former players on the staff. The built-in respect there certainly helps both Brunansky and Steinbach, who has never been a full-time coach because he wanted to spend time with his family he missed out on as a player. The native of New Ulm, Minn., and former University of Minnesota standout played with the Twins for three of his 14 years in the majors before retiring after the 1999 season. Steinbach made his name with Oakland, winning a World Series with the A’s in 1989.
He has been a guest instructor in spring training for the Twins for the past 13 years.
”He’s been around us for quite a few years. Anybody you talk to regards him as an awful good fit on a major league staff, and he has one heck of a playing resume,” Ryan said. ”I think he’s got a lot to offer.”
Cuellar was Rochester’s pitching coach for the last four years, his second stint in that role. He was New Britain’s manager in 2008 and the bullpen coach for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2006 and 2007. Before that, he spent four seasons as the Twins’ Triple-A pitching coach. In 2002, he was credited with helping a young Johan Santana develop the trademark changeup he used to become a two-time AL Cy Young Award winner.
Cuellar also is fluent in Spanish, fulfilling the Twins’ desire to add a coach who could better communicate with their players born in Latin countries.
”He’s got a lot of knowledge, a lot of familiarity, and he knows Gardy and (Anderson) well. Chemistry is important on every major league staff,” Ryan said