Rocco Baldelli emerged as the leading candidate to become the 14th manager in Twins history late Wednesday, and an announcement on his hiring is expected today.
Twins bench coach Derek Shelton is no longer in contention for the job, a major league source said. Baldelli, Shelton and Cubs bench coach Brandon Hyde were believed to be the top three candidates to replace the fired Paul Molitor.
Major League Baseball frowns on teams making major announcements on days that World Series games are played but will give permission for announcements to be made on off days. There is no game Thursday as the Series heads to Los Angeles, where the Dodgers find themselves trailing the Red Sox 2-0.
Baldelli, the Tampa Bay Rays’ major league field coordinator, had his second interview with the Twins on Monday. Shelton, Hyde and Twins hitting coach James Rowson also interviewed for the position with Twins Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey and General Manager Thad Levine.
The 37-year-old Baldelli would be the first manager hired by the Twins from another organization since Ray Miller after the 1984 season. Tom Kelly was a coach when named to the position during the 1986 season. Ron Gardenhire coached under Kelly until he took over in 2002. Molitor worked in the organization from 2005 until he replaced Gardenhire following the 2014 season.
Baldelli could provide a completely fresh perspective after working with a Rays organization that surprised many by going 90-72 in 2018.
A first-round pick (sixth overall) by the Rays in 2000 out of high school, Baldelli finished third in American League rookie of the year voting in 2003 but was forced to retire in 2010, at age 29, because of a muscular disorder. He worked in the Rays front office for four years, then became Rays first base coach in 2015.
He can connect with young players and understands the importance of analytics, traits that appear to be of greater importance in today’s game. And the Twins weren’t the only ones eyeing Baldelli, as he reportedly interviewed for five vacant managerial openings since the season ended.
It’s unclear how the rest of the coaching staff would shake out under Baldelli. One club source on Wednesday expected there would be turnover on the staff. Shelton was well-liked as the bench coach, and worked with Baldelli in Tampa Bay, so he could remain in the same role.
Other questions are whether bullpen coach Eddie Guardado, who is popular with Twins pitchers, or third base coach Gene Glynn would be brought back. Garvin Alston was in his first season as pitching coach, and Rowson in his second season as hitting coach.
On Sunday, two other teams filled managerial openings, Cincinnati (David Bell) and the Angels (Brad Ausmus). Toronto, Texas, Baltimore and the Twins have openings; the only team with which Baldelli has not talked is Baltimore, which is choosing a general manager before interviewing managerial candidates.