Molitor working to improve Twins’ defensive positioning

A St. Paul native, Paul Molitor spent the majority of his career with the Milwaukee Brewers but played his final three years with the Twins.

Steve Mitchell/Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Back when Paul Molitor played, some of the most advanced technology that allowed hitters to scout opposing pitchers were VHS tapes. Most of the Twins players he now coaches have likely never used a VCR in their lives.

Times have changed, and Molitor is slowly but surely adapting.

Molitor was added to the Twins’ coaching staff this offseason and will oversee the team’s base running, infield defense and bunting. The Hall of Famer has plenty of sage advice to offer up to Minnesota’s younger players, and those same players are all ears whenever Molitor speaks up. But Molitor will have another teaching tool at his disposal this season: video.

"It’s going to be a big change from me," Molitor said. "I had a chance to meet with (Twins manager of major league administration and baseball research) Jack Goin and Sean Harlin, our video guy, this winter. They tried to give me an indication of not only the information that the managers’ scouting reports on different teams has, but also video capabilities in Target Field, what they can isolate on and what we can watch.

"It’s just a matter of trying to figure out what information that’s available that you feel is going to be most helpful in the job you’re trying to do, according to your role."

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Along with his new job title, Molitor’s role this spring is much different than in years past. Before he was hired this winter to be on the Twins’ coaching staff, Molitor served as a roving minor league instructor during the season. He still spent his springs in Fort Myers, however, helping out Minnesota’s coaches wherever they saw fit.

Now, Molitor dedicates his time to working with the Twins’ infielders on defensive positioning, and with all players on base running. With the credentials that stem from his 3,319 hits and 504 stolen bases during a 21-year Hall of Fame career, Molitor’s words go a long way with Minnesota’s current roster.

"When he has something to say, you listen to what he says," said outfielder Alex Presley. "He’s been really helpful so far."

The same is true for Molitor’s instructions for the infielders. While he finished his career primarily as a designated hitter for his final few seasons, Molitor played 791 games at third base, 400 at second, 197 at first and 57 at shortstop.

A player with over 3,000 hits and that many games at each infield position isn’t a bad asset to have on any coaching staff.

"He just has the unique ability to say the right things to make you understand what he’s talking about," said third baseman Trevor Plouffe. "Sometimes you’ll get advice and it doesn’t sink in. He’s able to say the right words that make it sink in. He’s just very knowledgeable. You feel very confident being able to go to him and ask advice."

Part of Molitor’s tutelage has been breaking down video of the Twins’ defensive positioning. Molitor had positive things to say about each of Minnesota’s infielders from last year’s team, but he also acknowledged that each player still has things they can work on.

That’s where the video comes in. Molitor has already sat down with some of the infielders and broken down last year’s film by taking a look at defensive positions and how they react to different situations.

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Film analysis may be a newer concept for Molitor, but the players seem to embrace the approach he’s taken with it.

"He’s definitely gotten into it," said second baseman Brian Dozier. "He told me from Day 1 that he’s already been watching where I positioned . . . and (will) try to implement that a little more this year. It’s pretty cool."

A St. Paul native, Molitor spent the majority of his career with the Milwaukee Brewers but played his final three years with the Twins. He collected his 3,000th career high in a Minnesota uniform, and has remained close to the organization since retiring in 1998. Still, Molitor said he was caught off guard when Twins general manager Terry Ryan called him this offseason to offer him a job on the coaching staff.

There were some that believed Molitor would be a good candidate to replace Gardenhire as manager, but the Twins re-signed their skipper to a two-year deal this offseason. Now the two will work side-by-side on a daily basis, with Molitor nearby if Gardenhire needs help.

"He’s more involved now with the infield stuff than ever because I’ve asked him to do that. So his role’s kind of expanded because he’s on the staff now," Gardenhire said. "And I told him, every area, if you see something, step in. We want to use him as best we can and use every bit of him."

Molitor will miss some of the aspects of his previous job as a minor league rover, which allowed him to work extensively with young players like prospect Byron Buxton in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, last year. But it’s evident that Molitor is happy to be back on a big league staff — and the players are thrilled to have him, too.

"You always hear the names of some of the greats, not just to play in the organization but he’s one of the best to ever play the game as far as what he did during the 20 years he played," Dozier said. "It’s pretty special to have him on board. We’re all excited."

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