LAS VEGAS – Rocco Baldelli has assembled a coaching staff, reached out to many of his new players and huddled with the development staff.
There are many things the new Twins manager hasn’t done — like running spring training, cutting a player from camp, filling out a lineup card. Or manage a game.
This is what happens when a team selects a 37-year-old such as Baldelli, the only manager in baseball born in the 1980s. Many of the tasks he’s completed, and the decisions he’s about to make, are first-time experiences. There are many tentacles to this particular adjustment period as he makes the geographical and occupational jump from spending most of his career with Tampa Bay as a player, baseball operations staffer or a coach.
“I would say just after being in one place for so long, you gain — you’re in a very comfortable place when you’re in that kind of situation. [Now you’re] throwing yourself into an entirely different situation with new people, new experiences, new places,” Baldelli said. “It’s kind of invigorating in some ways.”
Baldelli met with the media Wednesday at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino during the Major League Baseball winter meetings. And he handled more than a few questions about how someone with so little experience adjusts to being handed so much responsibility.
He took them on as honestly as he could.
“There’s in-game stuff,” he said. “There’s this sitting with you guys right here. These are all part of a job I haven’t done. So I’m just trying to figure out some of it as I go. Ask as many questions as I can. And truthfully having great people surround me that I can talk to and tap into, just to have time with, that’s helpful to me.”
Since the Twins aren’t expected to make any splashy moves this offseason, Baldelli’s ability to get the young core of players to raise its game will be one of his biggest challenges. Leading that group is Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano.
Baldelli has been in contact with Buxton and plans to travel to Georgia before spring training for a face-to-face meeting with his center fielder. Buxton struggled last season and battled injuries before being sent down to Class AAA to find his swing. But he is upset he wasn’t called up in September and will report to camp determined to prove he can be a productive player.
Sano, who also underperformed during an injury-plagued season, is working out in the Dominican Republic and hopes to be in top shape when camp opens. Baldelli is headed there, too, to meet with the third baseman.
“I’ve seen these guys play since they were teenagers and watched them grow from afar and have always been kind of enamored of them as players,” Baldelli said. “I don’t know how you can’t be. They have the kind of ability that catches your eye and kind of catches your imagination and they’re the kind of guys — they haven’t just shown ability, they’ve shown the ability to use that ability out on the field.
“And I see no reason why they shouldn’t have long and prosperous careers, both of them.”
Baldelli is going to change the spring training workout schedule and make sure players are preparing for the season smartly. He’s met with his coaching staff about how they can help build the right culture in the clubhouse.
And he will lean on those with experience for guidance. He’s called Rays manager Kevin Cash for advice. He’s even talked to his predecessor, Paul Molitor, about the club. And he has major league coach Bill Evers and bench coach Derek Shelton to rely on as well.
“I really do think that there are things that will help me by being young,” he said, “and there are certain things that I’m going to have to learn from and there will be challenges associated with it, too.”