First workout in Fort Myers brings excitement -- and teaching

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 14, 2013 - 11:24 AM

Twins players basked in the annual return to baseball before buckling down for the basics.

FORT MYERS, FLA.

Joe Mauer was all business, ready to confront a workload complicated by a WBC detour. Cole De Vries was reminding himself to be himself, to make the day enjoyable but not overwhelming. Infield instructor Joe Vavra was apprehensive about every little detail of teaching every little detail. ¶ And for Rich Harden, Wednesday's opening practice for pitchers and catchers was all about the simple joy of being a baseball player again. ¶ "I was a little excited," Harden said of his first day in a big-league uniform in 17 months. "It was fun to get back out there -- just to be pitching on a mound."

Everyone approaches the first workout of spring training a little differently; heck, there's no general agreement whether it means the baseball season is practically upon us, or still a six-week eternity off. But all of the 50-plus Twins players who practiced in front of small but curious crowds in 80-degree weather Wednesday would agree: It's a blast to be back at work.

"This is what it's all about, getting back on the field," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "This is good stuff."

None better than Harden's. The 31-year-old righthander was the first Twins pitcher to take the mound, eager to test a shoulder that was surgically repaired 13 months ago, after years of periodic flareups that landed him on the disabled list virtually every year. He's been throwing at a Tempe, Ariz., rehab center for several months, but his seven-minute, 30-pitch session on Wednesday was the first time it's felt real to him again.

"I feel really good. Most of [my pitches] go where I want them to," said Harden, who has struck out 949 hitters in 928 1/3 career innings and has posted only one losing record in his nine-year career. "At this point, it's just about retraining my body to throw the way I should, and building up that arm strength. Getting that feel back."

Harden is a low-cost, low-risk gamble for the Twins, who hope he can reclaim his once-dominating form, stay healthy and shore up the pitching staff, possibly out of the bullpen. Mauer, on the other hand, is the most expensive player the Twins have ever employed, and this season, in addition to learning the repertoire of an overhauled pitching staff, he has extra duties. Mauer will report to Team USA in March and miss as much as three weeks while playing in the World Baseball Classic. That leaves the Twins catcher little time to accomplish a lot.

"I've got a lot of work to do," Mauer said. "I'll try to catch a different guy every day. And when I come back from [the WBC], we'll still have some time to get ready. And by then we'll have a better idea of who it might be [on the staff], which guys I've got to get familiar with. I'm excited for it."

Better to be early

De Vries wants to be one of those guys, and he's already familiar, thanks to the 16 starts he made as a rookie last season. That comfort level helps a lot this spring, the Eden Prairie High School product said, though there is no denying the thrill of opening camp three weeks before the minor leaguers show up across the complex.

"This is a lot better than being over on that other side," said De Vries, who joined Harden, closer Glen Perkins and newcomer Vance Worley in the first workout group. "This day is a lot of fun, but I try not to think too much about what I have to do."

De Vries' 4.11 ERA in 87 2/3 innings as a rookie earned him this chance to stay in the big leagues. "But I try to enjoy it and not put more pressure on myself," he said. "If you think you have to do something you're not capable of, you're asking for disaster."

To Vavra, disaster would be players standing around with nothing to do, or coaches unsure about what drill to run. Or, heaven forbid, someone not learning about proper footwork or the pitchout sign. "The organization has historically been really good at teaching the fundamentals, and not overlooking anything," said Vavra, who after a shakeup of Gardenhire's staff in October was assigned the task of planning and organizing spring training workouts. "I want to pay attention to every detail, because we're all accountable. What we do here is important, and we want the players to know we're serious about it."

He produces a complicated schedule designed to maximize players' time, to keep them from standing around too long after warming up, to make sure each lesson is presented, then reinforced with repeat sessions as camp goes on. Turn as you tag the bag so you don't run into the baserunner. Don't pull the ball out of your glove until after you record an out. Take a relay throw behind the base, so it can protect you from a sliding runner. The Twins lost some of their grasp of fundamentals last year, Gardenhire said, and he wants it cleaned up this spring.

"We've got a rotation for each drill, we've added some, and we make sure we take our time so they really learn it," Vavra said. "This is the first day, but we want what we do now to matter six months from now."

  • TWINS SPRING TRAINING FIRST PITCHERS-CATCHERS WORKOUT

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions
Final123456789RHE
Minnesota000000000040
Detroit «00100002X340
@Ballpark Replay
Preview | Matchup | Lineup | Log | Wrap | Box
W:D.Price(15-12) L:K.Gibson(13-12) S:J.Nathan (35)
HR: MIN- None DET- I.Kinsler (17)

ADVERTISEMENT

Kansas City - WP: J. Guthrie 3 FINAL
San Francisco - LP: T. Hudson 2
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Cleveland
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
New Orleans 10/30/14 7:25 PM
Carolina
Dallas 117 FINAL
Orlando 92
New York 80 FINAL
Toronto 83
San Antonio 87 FINAL
Houston 96
Miami 104 FINAL
Memphis 98
Minnesota 113 FINAL
Chicago 112
Phoenix 105 FINAL
Utah 100
Sacramento 93 FINAL
LA Lakers 92
Denver 112 FINAL
Golden State 119
Portland 99 FINAL
LA Clippers 89
Dallas 3 FINAL(SO)
New Jersey 2
Tampa Bay 4 FINAL
Winnipeg 2
Vancouver 3 FINAL
Colorado 7
Carolina 3 FINAL
Edmonton 6
Columbus 1 FINAL
Anaheim 4
Connecticut 21 FINAL
(18) East Carolina 31
Miami-Florida 30 FINAL
Virginia Tech 6
So Florida 17 FINAL
Cincinnati 34
Troy 13 FINAL
South Alabama 27
BYU 30 FINAL
Boise State 55
(6) Oregon 59 FINAL
California 41
North Texas 11:00 AM
Rice
UAB 11:00 AM
Arkansas
Rutgers 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 11:00 AM
Wisconsin
Texas 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 11:00 AM
Illinois
Memphis 11:00 AM
SMU
North Carolina 11:30 AM
Virginia
San Jose St 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10:59 PM
Hawaii
(2) Florida State 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Louisville
Troy 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
Cincinnati 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Tulane
Tulsa 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Memphis
Purdue 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
(17) Oklahoma 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Iowa State
Oklahoma State 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
(10) TCU 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(22) West Virginia
Texas 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Texas Tech
Northwestern 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Iowa
Maryland 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Penn State
Houston 1 FINAL
Chicago 2
Montreal 23 FINAL
Ottawa 17
Saskatchewan 27 FINAL
Calgary 40
Hamilton 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 6:00 PM
Winnipeg
Hamilton 10/31/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Toronto 11/2/14 11:00 AM
Montreal
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who should get the Twins' managing job?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close