Sid Hartman: Steinbach says young Twins require time to grow

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 21, 2013 - 11:25 PM

The first-year coach, who spent the weekend filling in for manager Ron Gardenhire, sees promise on the roster.

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Joe Mauer and Terry Steinbach shared a laugh during spring training in 2012.

Photo: Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune

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Terry Steinbach has been serving as the Twins bench coach all year, but the former All-Star catcher’s role was elevated this past weekend while manager Ron Gardenhire fell ill.

It was quite a role shift for Steinbach, who was helping out as an assistant coach at Wayzata High School before rejoining the Twins last fall.

“It’s a lot of fun getting back into the game,” Steinbach said. “It’s interesting for me to see the game from the other side, meaning coaches and how Gardy runs it. … I’ve seen it for many years as a player, and you understood it one way. But as a coach, you see it a completely different way. I have a much greater appreciation for the amount of work coaches do to get the players prepared for every series.”

Steinbach, the former Gophers standout from New Ulm, Minn., who played his final three major league seasons with the Twins, said he doesn’t know if he would like to become a manager some day, adding that for the present he is going to take it one day at a time here.

“Getting back into the game is fun, and right now I have no aspirations of taking Gardy’s job at all,” he said. “It’s fun just to be out here, and he’s a tremendous guy to work under and learn under. We’ll just see how things go.”

Steinbach was brought in as part of a Twins coaching shake-up after last season, along with hitting coach Tom Brunansky and bullpen coach Bobby Cuellar. Steve Liddle, Rick Stelmaszek and Jerry White were fired, and Scott Ullger and Joe Vavra were reassigned.

Asked if he is surprised the Twins’ record isn’t better, Steinbach said: “I think the biggest thing you can say to that is that we have a very young club. … And with a young club, you have to battle the consistency issue. We can play with anybody at times and look really, really good, and everything’s working. Our pitching, our hitting, our defense, our situational hitting is all clicking. And then you turn the light switch off, and the next thing you know, we drop 10 games in a row.

“I think that’s something we’re very aware of, and we’re working with our younger players to try to become more consistent, and try to keep those losing streaks to a minimum, try to keep those as short as we can. Really, it’s just getting those young kids experience out there. The more they play, the more that they experience what this game of baseball is all about, the more consistent they’re going to become.”

High on Hicks

Steinbach has faith that many of the Twins players will develop in time. He pointed to rookie center fielder Aaron Hicks as an example.

“I think his future is extremely bright,” Steinbach said. “We all know what he’s doing right now defensively. He’s making plays look so easy. We have to remind ourselves as coaches that, in the course of a game, there are probably two or three balls, maybe even four baseballs that are hit a game that a lot of center fielders wouldn’t even get to, and he’s getting to those balls and making those catches look very easy.”

However, the switch hitter’s average is back down to .191 after briefly breaking the .200 mark.

“He’s getting a little better offensively, from his bunting game, to his situational hitting, getting guys over, getting guys in, and as well his average, I think there’s plenty of room for improvement,” Steinbach said. “But the thing we’re seeing with him, it’s kind of a slow process, but he’s working extremely hard with Bruno on his swing, and I believe the quality of his at-bats has improved from Day 1 to now. They’re definitely not where we want them to be yet, but he’s making progress.”

The Twins simply need many of their players to put in more time in the majors, Steinbach said.

“The guys have to get experience. They have to become more consistent,” he said. “We have to get away from winning four, losing five. Winning eight out of 10 and then dropping 12 straight. If we can correct some of that, it really changes our overall record pretty dramatically.”

Will make trade

Twin General Manager Terry Ryan was quoted this past week as saying he would be surprised if he didn’t make a trade before the July 31 deadline.

The word in baseball circles is that Pittsburgh is one of the clubs really interested in trading for Justin Morneau, who would replace former Twins teammate Garrett Jones at first base.

You hate to see Morneau go, but there is little doubt if Ryan can get some good prospects, it makes sense to trade Morneau, because he will be a free agent after the season. At that time the Twins will have as good a chance to re-sign him as any other team.

I believe there is less chance they would trade closer Glen Perkins, who is signed to a multiyear contract. There would be no chance of getting him back any time soon.

Jottings

• It was a real tribute to Gophers football when coach Jerry Kill was selected to speak at an annual recent Alabama high school football clinic. The word is that he wowed the coaches. And speaking of Alabama, the Gophers are recruiting there,and this spring had a visitor in New Market, Ala., safety Khari Blaisingame, who is giving the maroon and gold serious consideration.

• Representing the Gophers at this week’s Big Ten football preseason media gathering in Chicago will be Donnell Kirkwood, Ra’Shede Hageman and Brock Vereen.

• Among the 100-plus players invited to the Gophers football Friday night camp at TCF Bank Stadium was one J.R. Reed, son of former Vikings receiver Jake Reed from Prestonwood Christian Academy in Plano, Texas. Jake, who said his son is considering Minnesota, has a friend on the Gophers coaching staff in running backs coach Brian Anderson.

• Gophers coaches had a cookout Sunday for several of the top players they are recruiting. They included Jashon Cornell, a defensive player from Cretin-Derham Hall who ESPN ranks the best player in the country in the class of 2015, and defensive lineman Frank Ragnow of Chanhassen. Also on hand were outstanding players who have committed, including Minneapolis Washburn running back Jeff Jones, defensive lineman Steven Richardson of Mount Carmel High School in Chicago, Owatonna defensive end Andrew Stelter and center Connor Mayes of Van Alstyne, Texas.

• The Minnesota high school basketball “Big Three” of Tyus Jones, Reid Travis and Rashad Vaughn started together in the Nike Global Challenge over the weekend in Washington, D.C., going 3-1 in four games with USA Midwest. Travis averaged 22 points per game, Vaughn 19.8 and Jones 11.5 points and 7.0 assists.

 

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. • shartman@startribune.com

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