Flubs mean more reps in Florida

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 29, 2011 - 11:31 AM

Alarmed at seeing an erosion of fundamentals, manager Ron Gardenhire got three days of drills added to the Twins' spring training.

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The Twins once prided themselves on being one of baseball's most fundamentally sound teams, but as they near the end of a humbling season, they know they need more work.

Manager Ron Gardenhire said Sunday that the team plans to add three days to the beginning of spring training next February, increasing time for fundamental drills before exhibition games start.

"The cutoffs and relays have been very disappointing," Gardenhire said. "I know we've had a lot of injuries and a lot of people playing different [positions], but these guys have been playing baseball a long time, and I expect better. The only way I know how to do that is to give it more time in spring training."

The Twins ended a seven-game losing streak Sunday with an 11-4 victory over the Tigers at Target Field, but there was a moment that reinforced Gardenhire's point.

With the Twins leading 6-2 in the sixth inning, Victor Martinez hit a sacrifice fly to left fielder Rene Tosoni, and Miguel Cabrera advanced to third base when Tosoni's throw bounced away from catcher Rene Rivera.

Third baseman Danny Valencia was supposed to be the cutoff man, but he stayed at third. Shortstop Trevor Plouffe is supposed to cover third base on that play, and was there, near Valencia, as Cabrera advanced.

Had the cutoff man been in place, the Twins could have held Cabrera to second. Instead, he scored on Alex Avila's subsequent grounder, trimming the Twins' lead to 6-4 before they pulled away with five runs over the next two innings.

The Twins have seen fundamental breakdowns like that since Opening Day in Toronto, when they mangled the first of many rundown plays. After averaging 77 errors over their previous two seasons, fewest in the American League, the Twins have 95 errors this year and countless other mistakes that haven't shown up in boxscores.

Gardenhire spoke to General Manager Bill Smith about the need to extend camp by three days. Smith approved.

"Yes, it is a little bit of a reaction to how this year has evolved," Smith said. "But it's something we talk about every year."

The Twins traditionally have been one of the last teams to report to spring training. Players arriving from other teams often praised them for their efficiency, saying they got a lot done in a relatively short time.

The Twins held 10 days of full-squad workouts before exhibition games started, but that number will increase to 13. It doesn't sound like they'll have much trouble convincing veterans to buy in.

"This year it seemed like we were rushed," first baseman Justin Morneau said. "It might be miserable. Maybe about the fifth day into [full-squad workouts] it might get old, but it's something that needs to be done."

Gardenhire said the extra repetitions help players get settled in and comfortable. The Twins saw the opposite this spring with their new middle infield combination of Alexi Casilla and Tsuyoshi Nishioka. They looked unsettled and uncomfortable.

And after a season like this, there could be several more roster changes by next spring.

"We've always said too much spring training's not good," Gardenhire said. "But I just know we're going to have a few different people."

Next February, they'll all hunker down for a few more drills.


    Up next: Three-game series at Chicago

    Game 1: 7:10 tonight • TV: FSN (1500ESPN)

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