WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Paul Molitor played international baseball himself, back in his Gophers days, so he doesn’t begrudge his players for their eagerness to leave training camp and play for their country.
But as a manager, he can’t help but worry.
Eddie Rosario, Kennys Vargas, Hector Santiago and Jose Berrios departed the Twins after Sunday’s 4-2 victory over the Nationals for Scottsdale, Ariz., where they will prepare this week to play for Team Puerto Rico in the the World Baseball Classic, which begins for them Friday.
The interruption in training camp for those players “is not insurmountable,” Molitor said, but he wants more information, in particular, about the plan for Berrios, who is fighting for a spot in the Twins rotation but might be used in the bullpen in the WBC.
Twins pitching coach Neil Allen, Molitor said, would be in touch with Ricky Bones, a former Milwaukee teammate of Molitor’s who is serving as pitching coach for the Puerto Ricans, “to find out how he’s going to be used. I don’t think we have a very clear idea. … We haven’t had a lot of specifics about how his work is going to go. We kind of need to know that.”
Still, Molitor knows he has no say in what happens to his players while they’re gone.
“They’re aware they have to protect the players a little bit. They have a responsibility to the clubs,” Molitor said of his international-team counterparts. “But something things happen, they get put into a box.”
Regardless, he expects it to be a good experience for his players. Puerto Rico made the championship game in the last WBC three years ago, and the intensity of those games might help. Good performances under that pressure may even help Berrios and Vargas earn roster spots, he suggested.
“The farther they go, the bigger the game — you see the intensity,” Molitor said. “They’re serious about what they’re going to be doing and what they’re playing for. So it could help.”
Duffey bounces back
Tyler Duffey faced only six hitters in pitching two scoreless innings Sunday, an encouraging bounceback from the righthander’s ugly six-run inning five days earlier against the Orioles.
“It looked like he had a little angry in him today,” Molitor said.
That’s not always a good thing for Duffey, who has been known to sometime let his frustration get in the way of his focus when things don’t go well. But this time, Molitor said, he used his mood to his advantage.
For instance, when he threw a fastball that was clocked at 96 miles per hour, albeit by the scoreboard speed tracker.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that,” Molitor said, and he’s right: Duffey has never thrown a pitch in a major league game faster than 94 mph. “Mentally, for him to come back and get another chance after that, to get a couple of good innings, that was good.”
• Lefthanded reliever Mason Melotakis threw a second bullpen session Sunday in Fort Myers, as he works his way back from a strained right oblique. Molitor said his first game action has not yet been scheduled.
Righthander Kyle Gibson makes his third start of the spring as the St. Louis Cardinals travel across the state to face the Twins at Hammond Stadium. The game will be televised on Fox Sports North.