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La Velle E. Neal III and Phil Miller report on the Twins from wherever they make news

Extra work: Twins getting a lot done before practice officially starts

    FORT MYERS, Fla. — Officially, Twins workouts begin at 9 a.m. each morning. But these days, hardly anyone waits until 9 to get started.

    The four indoor batting cages were completely full an hour ahead of time today. Across the way, the faster players on the roster were taking bunting practice with Tony Oliva. There were a handful of infielders taking grounders on Tom Kelly Field, and pitchers with non-throwing workouts were already at work in the bullpen.

    Paul Molitor said he expected more pre-workout workouts this year, and his players have clearly taken his cue.

    “The more hitting, the better,” Kennys Vargas said as he finished the first of three sessions he’ll take in a batting cage today.

    So far, everything is going smoothly for the Twins. No injuries, everyone staying on schedule, and Molitor seems satisfied with what he’s seeing. He called the full team together in the stadium today to work on defensive drills — relays, rundowns, throwing to the correct bases, etc.

    After today’s session, the players will meet with Tony Clark, head of the players association. He’ll go over the new collective bargaining agreement that was negotiated this offseason.

    In today’s paper, I wrote about Kyle Gibson and Ryan O’Rourke’s new, unorthodox training methods, which they hope will keep them healthy this year. La Velle wrote about Molitor’s admission that the Twins mishandled Jorge Polanco last season by not playing him at shortstop while he was in Triple-A.

Molitor admits Polanco development should have been handled differently

Here are two quick rants following the Twins workout at the CenturyLink Sports Complex.

Twins manager Paul Molitor admitted the club blundered last season when it didn't play Jorge Polanco at short while he was at Rochester. The Twins needed a shortstop for the second half of the season, and called Polanco up in late July.

Polanco's arm isn't the best at short, and he made several of his 15 errors there. But the Twins appear committed to helping him improve his defense there. Offensively, he has a lot of potential. Polanco, 23, is a switch hitter who rarely has looked overmatched at the plate.

The Twins historically have moved their infielders around to make sure they don't get caught like they did last year. I wonder if that got lost in the aftermath of Terry Ryan getting fired.

"I wish I had a better explanation for you," Molitor said. "But I think myself, a lot of other people, realized we didn't handle it the right way."

Wow.

Molitor really shouldn't have to take the blame for how Polanco was used in the minors. That's someone else's area.

My second rant is about safety.

Pitchers during live batting practice have the option of using a protective screen - called an L-screen - to shield them from batted balls hit back up the middle. In two days, I have seen just one pitcher, Michael Tonkin, use a screen. I talked some pitchers about it. Some said it was a comfort issue. Some felt it gave a false sense of security. All it is going to take is one line drive back up the middle to change these opinions.

Part of this might be pitching coach Neil Allen's challenge to throw more quality strikes in camp. Perhaps pitchers are locked in more than normal at this time of year. I just don't think it is worth the risk.

I checked with one of the beat writers for the Red Sox. Their pitchers also have the option of using the screen - and ALL have used the screen.

One final note: My heart goes out to the family of longtime sports reporter Rod Simons, who has died of an apparent heart attack. Simons was here in Fort Myers yesterday, conducting interviews in his familiar upbeat way. He didn't show up at the park today, and we soon found out why.

This has ended up being a very sad day. I was standing right next to him yesterday, and now he's gone. Rod was a kind, hard working man who won awards for his work and invested time in causes like his Golf for the Gift charity.

Palms to the sky, Rod.