Paul Molitor was asked Tuesday to identify the biggest issues with Twins baseball following 291 losses over the past three seasons.
“Offensively, the position players need to look at how and what they need to do to make adjustments, the ability to run the bases well, the ability to put the ball in play when necessary, the ability to get runners home in scoring position,” said Molitor, who was named the seventh coach on manager Ron Gardenhire’s staff.
“I know things have a tendency to snowball. Hopefully we can try to re-establish a culture about gaining an edge and protecting home field, playing in pressure situations and learning how to win. We definitely had it for a long time.
“If you ask me, you got two guys, [Brian] Dozier and [Joe] Mauer and a bunch of other question marks. You have a guy in Josh [Willingham] who is looking to bounce back. [Pedro] Florimon did a good job. I think it is going to be a lot about individually getting players to realize that it’s not about being a major league player anymore. It is about being a winning major league player.”
Molitor spoke to the Twins about a job last year — before Major League Baseball said that teams could add a seventh coach — and it was determined he wasn’t the right fit. Now there’s room to add the Hall of Famer.
If only he could still play.
This is Molitor’s second stint with the major league staff. He was a coach under Tom Kelly in 2000 and 2001. His last major league coaching job was in 2004, when he served as the Seattle Mariners hitting coach.
His duties for the Twins will include base running, bunting, infield instruction and positioning, and in-game strategy.
There has been a belief that Molitor, 57, would be a manager-in-waiting as a member of Gardenhire’s staff, something that could grow into a distraction if the Twins are losing. Twins General Manager Terry Ryan rejected that notion Tuesday, but it would be a smooth transition if the Twins decide to part ways with Gardenhire when his contract expires in two seasons.
“That never really crossed my mind because Gardy can stand on his own two feet,” Ryan said. “You can read into it whatever you like. We’ve come off three tough years. We are trying to get better. Major League Baseball changed the rules to allow another coach and Molly is our choice.
“Gardy doesn’t have to look over his shoulder. We’ve had a rough year, and he’s back with a two-year contract. And I’ll go one step further, this was Gardy’s idea, not mine.”
Gardenhire brought up Molitor and which roles he could serve during end-of-season discussions with Ryan. Molitor then met with Ryan and Gardenhire about two weeks ago during organizational meetings in Fort Myers, Fla. A deal was finalized once officials returned to the Twin Cities.
The trickle-down effect from Molitor’s hiring means that third base coach Joe Vavra’s role has been altered. He was in charge of infield instruction and positioning, but that will be Molitor’s assignment now.
With Molitor’s high baseball IQ joining the staff, it will be interesting to see how he meshes with the other coaches. He’s had experience as a major and minor league coach and is qualified to help in every on-field aspect. And the rest of the coaching staff likely will lean on Molitor for input. He’s coached with Gardenhire and [Scott] Ullger under Kelly and was teammates with [Terry] Steinbach on the Twins. There’s no chance Molitor will step on any toes.
“I’ve always thought that — and I expressed this to Gardy and Paul — that if someone has a question or if somebody thinks they can fix somebody we ought to be free enough as a staff to not let our egos get in the way,” Ryan said.
“Terry communicated with everyone and everyone is on board [with a seventh coach]. I think we’re all about making the players better,” Molitor said.