Twins Notebook: Molitor leads first full-squad workout
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Paul Molitor has taken part in dozens of spring trainings, both as a player and a coach. This, however, is his first as a manager.
The Hall of Famer took over for Ron Gardenhire as the Minnesota Twins new manager this past winter and assembled his staff over the course of the offseason. The work Molitor and his crew put in the last few months to prepare for spring training came to fruition Saturday as the Twins held their first full-squad workout.
Admittedly, Molitor had some nerves — the good kind, he added.
"I’ve had a little anxiousness at times. Things start coming to you that maybe you hadn’t thought of and then you’ve got to make decisions," Molitor said after Saturday’s workout. "I found that if I slow myself down, then you get clarity. I think getting through the firsts that we talk about, the very first day and the meeting with the staff, the meeting with the pitchers and catchers, the meeting with the full squad yesterday, getting through the first workout today, every little thing that’s first, you know it’s something different and new.
"Overall I think each day I’m actually getting a little more comfortable, which is a good thing."
Molitor could be found all over the CenturyLink Sports Complex on Saturday — not to mention on the cover of the 2015 Media Guide — as position players and pitchers began their collective workouts. For some of the morning, Molitor was with the Twins’ infielders on Tom Kelly Field as they ran various drills. He did his best to keep an eye on things at the main field at Hammond Stadium, as well, where Minnesota’s hitters faced live pitching for the first time this spring.
As Molitor quickly found out about his new gig, though, he can’t be everywhere at once. That’s where his coaching staff came in. Most of the coaches on Molitor’s staff are new from last year, with the exception of bench coach Joe Vavra and hitting coach Tom Brunansky. Molitor felt confident that the plan his staff put together this offseason worked well on the first day of workouts.
"It’s kind of a learning process for me how to distribute time throughout the workout," Molitor said. "I obviously wanted to see how bunt defenses went. I watched our more veteran players do that, and it was fine. And then of course we’re doing some base running things during the rotation for batting practice. . . . Just kind of tending to the areas it’s most helpful right now."
Pitchers ahead of the hitters: Minnesota’s pitchers reported to camp last Sunday, so they had nearly a full week of work before Saturday’s full-squad workout.
That was evident Saturday when the Twins’ batters faced live pitching for the first time this spring as pitchers threw batting practice. While some hitters opted not to swing much, others dug into the box and took their cuts.
Rarely was the result a pretty one. On one of the back fields behind Hammond Stadium, Minnesota closer Glen Perkins made easy work of third base prospect Miguel Sano and first baseman Kennys Vargas. After swinging and missing on a pitch by Perkins, Vargas walked out of the batting cage and could only mutter "Wow" as he shook his head.
"Just a good tracking day as we like to call it," said Twins first baseman Joe Mauer. "You need to do that. You need to sit there and look and see that ball coming in. That’s a big part of it, and the next couple days start feeling better, get your legs underneath you and let a couple fly."
Molitor had no problem with hitters simply standing in the batter’s box and watching as their pitchers got their work in.
"It’s kind of evolved into where hitters like to just track more than they like to swing," Molitor said. "A few guys take swings, especially the young guys. But not a lot of action. It’s for the pitchers getting comfortable with a hitter in the box. I remember in the old days we’d go in there and would want to hit. But now they just kind of stand in there, which isn’t a bad thing the first couple days."
Players OK with Molitor’s new rules: Earlier in camp, Molitor told the media that he would institute a new rule in which Twins players can’t use their cell phones or play cards 30 minutes prior to games. The hope is that it would help improve communication and camaraderie among the team.
Though Minnesota hasn’t yet tried out the new rule, the players don’t seem to mind the new guideline.
"I think he wants a little bit more order. I think he’s big on the team camaraderie, conversing with everybody, which I’m kind of a fan of," said reliever Brian Duensing. "I think we should be able to put down the technology a little bit and actually talk to each other. I’m excited for that."
Added Mauer: "I think it’s great. You know me, I’m not a Twitter guy or anything like that. It’s good. We have a job to do and that is what we should be doing.”
Briefly: Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki took a ball off the right kneecap during live batting practice Saturday as he was catching pitcher Ryan Pressly. A curveball from Pressly spiked in the dirt and caught Suzuki in the knee. After staying in for a few more pitches, Suzuki eventually went to the dugout and was replaced by catcher Stuart Turner. Molitor didn’t have an update on Suzuki after the workouts. . . . Molitor said he has an idea of who will pitch Wednesday in an exhibition game against the University of Minnesota, as well as Thursday’s Grapefruit League opener against Boston, but wouldn’t reveal those pitchers to the media just yet. He did add that not many veteran players will likely play in the exhibition against the Gophers. &nbps;. . . Third baseman Trevor Plouffe did not participate in workouts Saturday due to illness. He was at the facility in the morning for a mandatory MLB meeting with the rest of his teammates but was sent home before workouts began.
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