FORT MYERS, FLA. – On his first day of running a spring training camp, new Twins manager Paul Molitor displayed the demeanor of a CEO.
He strolled the fields at the CenturyLink Sports Complex, observing his coaches as they ran drills and oversaw bullpen work. Once in a while, he would move in closer, as he did when he listened to bench coach Joe Vavra addressing the catchers. For the most part, Molitor stepped back and observed, once even walking down the right-field line on one practice field so he could monitor work on an adjacent field.
It was Day 1 of Molitor’s term as Twins manager.
“The big thing for me today was getting out on the field,” Molitor said. “This has been a long winter since the announcement was made, and a lot of preparation obviously throughout the course of the winter, trying to get ready. But to get out in your element so to speak and to have a chance to watch the guys run around and start to put into place some things that you envisioned, it was a good day.”
The booming voice and hearty chuckle of his predecessor, Ron Gardenhire, is long gone. But Molitor isn’t dull. While warming up with pitching coach Neil Allen, he yelled, “Heyyyy, the ball is coming out of his hand pretty nice!”
All pitchers and catchers reported for camp on time, and at least a dozen position players were on hand Monday. Some other players, such as Kennys Vargas and Joe Mauer, have been spotted in town and could appear over the next couple of days.
One thing evident to players Monday is that Molitor is going to be a stickler for details. He is adjusting how the team defends against bunts and controls the running game.
The position players who are in camp early — they don’t have to report until Friday — already have been warned about what Molitor wants to see.
“I sat in on the meeting he had [Monday] with the pitchers and catchers,” second baseman Brian Dozier said, “and he was going over our series of signs and stuff, holding runners and all that kind of stuff. He’s really detail-oriented, but he’s always been like that.”
Preparing ahead of time
Molitor has been in Fort Myers for more than a week, and has been spotted on the back fields casually chatting with players. He has also spent hours in his office. When a couple reporters walked into the clubhouse last week during a tour of the $48.5 million renovation of Hammond Stadium, Molitor was in his office, his desk covered with charts and reports, looking like he was cramming for a final exam.
He wants every player to know what he’s responsible for, starting with this camp.
“It’s been very thorough,” Vavra said. “It’s been in stages, just dissecting what we do on a daily basis, more like an hourly basis throughout the day and throughout the season, so we have just been breaking down from the get-go how it is going to work in spring training and not moving too far forward into the season.
“He really, really wants to be detail-oriented, especially the first few days of spring training so guys are going to get things ingrained into their daily routines and get them down pat.”
Players endorse changes
Players were open to Molitor’s approach.
“It’s fun to see what the changes are,” said Twins righthander Phil Hughes, who was named Opening Day starter Monday. “This is always a good time of year.”
It also was the first chance new pitching coach Neil Allen had to work with his staff. Hughes, Kyle Gibson, Glen Perkins, Michael Tonkin, Ricky Nolasco and Jose Berrios were among the pitchers Allen got to see Monday.
His message was a simple one.
“Don’t get hurt,” Allen said while laughing. “It’s Day 1. Stay under control.”
Back in his office after the workout, Molitor said the first day went fairly smooth. He talked about the benefits of having veterans such as Torii Hunter around, how he has to work on learning the fine points of handling pitchers, how he wasn’t prepared to name Ervin Santana the No. 2 starter yet, and how he has to get everyone to buy in order to become a winning club.
It was a good first day, and Molitor is looking forward to the first full squad workout on Saturday.
“We had a nice chance to chat with them [Monday],” Molitor said of his players. “I didn’t get too long-winded in terms of any motivational type things today. It was more about let’s try to understand what we’re trying to accomplish here and talk about some of the changes we’re going to make, and I’ll have a chance to address the whole group on [Saturday].”