MINNEAPOLIS — The first coach of new Twins manager Paul Molitor’s staff has been named and it is a familiar face.
Minnesota announced Thursday that Tom Brunansky will return as the team’s hitting coach for the 2015 season. Brunansky served in that same role in both 2013 and 2014 under former manager Ron Gardenhire.
When Gardenhire was let go after the season, the status of Brunansky and the rest of the coaching staff was up in the air. Every coach is technically under contract through December, but nothing beyond that was guaranteed.
The Twins didn’t make Brunansky wait long, as they asked him if he’d like to return just two days after Molitor was officially introduced.
"I was happy and relieved," Brunansky said Thursday. "The term (general manager Terry Ryan) used, ‘limbo,’ was absolutely correct. You’re preparing to go to work but yet you don’t have anything there. After Terry and I talked, my mind started thinking already, preparing for spring training."
Despite losing 92 games in 2014, Minnesota’s offense was easily its strength. Under Brunansky’s tutelage, the Twins finished the year seventh in the majors in runs scored (715), 11th in batting average (.254) and fifth in on-base percentage (.324).
Minnesota saw the development of several young hitters throughout the 2014 season, including Danny Santana, Kennys Vargas and Oswaldo Arcia. That has Brunansky and the Twins excited for what this offense could potentially do in 2015.
"I was very pleased with what we accomplished offensively," Brunansky said. "We were in the games. Our boys battled down to the last pitch. It might not have shown on the scoreboard, but if we were down three or four runs in that last inning, there were numerous times when we had that tying run on base."
Brunansky, 54, spent 14 seasons as a player in the major leagues. His career included stints with the Angels, Twins, Cardinals, Red Sox and Brewers. He retired after the 1994 season with a career .245 batting average. Brunansky was a member of the 1987 Twins team that won the World Series, and was named to the All-Star Game in 1985 while with Minnesota.
Before joining the Twins’ staff as the hitting coach, Brunansky served that same role with Triple-A Rochester in 2012 and with Double-A New Britain in 2011. Of course, Brunansky is now the hitting coach for a manager who had 3,319 hits in his Hall of Fame playing career. But he has gotten to know Molitor over the years, including this past season when Molitor was added as a coach to Gardenhire’s staff.
"When we were in the minor leagues together and he’d come in as a rover, he’d always come down to the cage and he would sit and listen and watch," Brunansky said. "We would always pick his brain. This year, it was no different."
Ryan said Thursday that the decision to bring Brunansky back was a mutual one between the front office and Molitor. The announcement that Brunansky will return doesn’t necessarily mean the rest of the coaching staff hires will come as quickly, though.
Molitor and the Twins front office still have several other positions to fill. Perhaps the most intriguing hire will be the pitching coach. Molitor admitted at his introductory press conference that pitching will be the biggest area he’ll need to rely on his coaching staff.
"I would like to think that’s one that’s important. We all know that because of the status of anybody’s pitching staff," Ryan said. "Also, we talked at length about Paul’s interest and making sure he’s with a guy he’s very comfortable with, with knowledge. He’s going to rely on that person tremendously, just like he would any coach. We’re going to make sure and try to get the best person available and the best fit available and make sure that whoever it is, there’s a comfort level with all parties involved."