FORT MYERS, FLA. – The Twins clubhouse bustled with activity on Sunday morning, signaling the end of spring training.
Equipment was packed and loaded.
NCAA basketball picks were checked.
Walkup music for the rapidly approaching season was selected.
You know, all the important things.
The Florida portion of spring training ended Sunday with a 6-1 loss to Boston. The Twins now head to Washington for a game against the Nationals on Tuesday before opening the regular season Thursday at Baltimore.
But Sunday was a little strange in that the Twins packed up to leave town, but there was still work to do. The roster doesn’t have to be finalized until Wednesday, so final decisions on the 25 players to take the field at Camden Yards haven’t been made.
And players were still in the progression toward Opening Day. After going 0-for-2 against the Red Sox on Sunday before being removed, Joe Mauer grabbed a bat and headed to the cage for more swings.
“Just a couple,” he said.
Twins manager Paul Molitor still reflected on a camp that is done … but not quite done.
“I’ve been pleased,” Molitor said. “The work ethic and what we got out of players was about as much as you can ask for over six weeks.”
However, the Twins will leave Fort Myers saddled with plenty of confidence as they seek a second consecutive trip to the postseason. Returning to the postseason, they are well aware, is the most important thing.
A year ago, the Twins hoped to play well. This year, they want to run down Cleveland in the AL Central Division. While unexpected roster upgrades through trades and free agency during camp got their attention, players’ work in camp has shown second baseman Brian Dozier that there has been no complacency.
Dozier said players have been focused on the little details that were a key to last year’s run.
“The first couple of days of spring training, we made it a point to make sure everyone knew that it wasn’t about being the most talented,” Dozier said. “It was that we did every little thing right on the defensive side of the ball. That’s what picked up our pitching staff.
“Let’s not spend the whole spring learning how to do that again, like we did in 2016. Let’s pick up where we left off and make sure you are fundamentally sound and let the talent take over.”
Hitting coach James Rowson took a similar approach with the position players. He showed them highlights of their greatest hits during last season, told them that is the new floor and that it’s time to take off from there.
The Twins are talented and still have upside, but they also expect more after a breakthrough season. That has been noticed by newcomers such as Jake Odorizzi.
“I could feel it when I first got traded over here,” the righthander said. “You can tell the vibe was a whole lot different and optimistic, and for a good reason as well. Just getting to the playoffs last year and coming back this year, nothing has changed, except making improvements to the roster.
“I think there’s a good bit of confidence going into the season. I can feel it and I think the guys really feel it too.”
Somehow, the Twins managed to blend the winter meetings and spring training into one. After losing out on free-agent righthander Yu Darvish, the transaction train started rolling.
They traded for Odorizzi and signed Anibal Sanchez, Logan Morrison, Erick Aybar and Lance Lynn between Feb. 18 and March 12. Sanchez was released and Aybar opted to become a free agent.
But the key moves energized the final weeks of camp. Those additions enhanced a group that includes established players in Mauer, Dozier and Ervin Santana, and developing players such as Miguel Sano, Bryon Buxton and Eddie Rosario.
The Twins won’t be a full strength at the beginning of the season, with Santana recovering from surgery on his middle finger and shortstop Jorge Polanco serving an 80-game PED suspension. But no one is worried about who won’t be on the field on Opening Day.
The fake games are almost over. The 162 real ones are about to be played.
And the Twins can’t wait.
“It’s a really good mix of guys,” catcher Jason Castro said. “It’s really going to be fun to watch.”