Coaching gaps filled on Gardenhire's staff

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 23, 2012 - 9:27 AM

 Ex-Twin Terry Steinbach was named bench coach, Tom Brunansky hitting coach and Bobby Cuellar bullpen coach.

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Minnesota Twins Joe Mauer found something humorous as he talked to former Twin Terry Steinbach, a special instructor in camp, during Spring Training at Hammond Stadium. Saturday will be the first day of practice with the entire team.

Photo: Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune

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The Twins named Terry Steinbach their new bench coach and Tom Brunansky their new hitting coach Monday, adding a combined 28 years of big league playing experience and 433 career home runs to manager Ron Gardenhire's staff.

Bobby Cuellar also was named the new bullpen coach, giving the staff a fluent Spanish speaker and another pitching guru to work alongside pitching coach Rick Anderson.

Besides Brunansky, the staff still includes two of its former hitting coaches, Joe Vavra and Scott Ullger. Vavra is the new third base coach, and Ullger is the new first base coach.

"I guess there's that built-in advantage, as long as it works, and I suspect it will," General Manager Terry Ryan said. "I think this coaching staff, along with knowledge and experience, has some chemistry here, and I think it's going to be a good staff to work with. Gardy is very comfortable. Obviously, we'll see how it plays out."

Steinbach, Brunansky and Cuellar replace the three coaches the Twins fired -- Steve Liddle, Jerry White and Rick Stelmaszek -- after finishing with the American League's worst record for the second consecutive season.

The Twins promoted Brunansky and Cuellar from their Class AAA Rochester staff but kept Rochester manager Gene Glynn in his current role, even though he has a decade's worth of experience as a big league third base coach.

"We really value Gene's ability as a baseball man, regardless of what position you might give him," Ryan said. "At this time on this staff, it just wasn't the right fit.

''We retained Joe Vavra to coach third and handle the infielders. And I wanted to get some sort of catching presence on the staff [with Steinbach]."

Steinbach, 50, was a three-time All-Star catcher for Oakland and played his final three seasons with the Twins, returning home after growing up in New Ulm, Minn., and playing for the Gophers.

He has worked as a spring training catching instructor for the Twins for 13 years and assisted with the Wayzata varsity team while his two sons were in school. But with his sons now playing at Minnesota Duluth, Steinbach and his wife found themselves as empty-nesters, making this the right time to return to the majors full-time.

"I couldn't have written a better script," Steinbach said.

As a catcher, Steinbach learned how to run the game from behind the plate, and now Gardenhire will be leaning on him for advice for when to hit and run, etc.

"Obviously, I've got to talk to Gardy and find out exactly what he needs," Steinbach said. "I don't want to say too much or not enough. But yes, I think being a catcher, instinctively there are aspects of the game that you learn to deal with."

Brunansky's promotion was no surprise. After coaching at Poway (Calif.) High School, he returned to the Twins organization as hitting coach for their rookie-level Gulf Coast League affiliate in 2010, and quickly climbed the ladder to Class AA and Class AAA.

"I'm excited because Joe [Vavra's] been there for eight years," Brunansky said. "So all of his in-depth work he's already done, like all the work about the [opposing] pitchers, he's a huge resource for me. I'm certainly going to be leaning on him."

Brunansky, who was part of the Twins' 1987 World Series championship team, can relate his own experiences -- his successes and slumps -- and remind hitters they're not alone.

"Anybody that Tom's ever been around gives rave reviews about his professionalism, his attention to detail, his knowledge, his want to make people better," Ryan said. "I think he's got the ideal personality. There are a lot of positives he's going to bring to the table."

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