One thing that agitated some fans was Ron Gardenhire’s reluctance to use his closer anywhere other than the ninth inning. This comes at a time when many managers will bring their closers into games in the eighth inning if it’s a critical situation.
Well, that page from Gardenhire’s playbook has been removed — and inserted directly into Paul Molitor’s.
“I’m not big on expanding [Glen Perkins’] role past the ninth inning in the short term,” Molitor said.
Gardenhire used Perkins in the eighth inning to get a save once in 2014 and once in 2013. That’s it. Perkins, 31, is one of the game’s best closers and certainly could handle the challenge, but Molitor is more interested in building a strong bullpen in front of Perkins.
Another factor could be that Perkins is coming back after missing the final 11 games of 2014 because of nerve problems and a forearm strain near his left elbow.
“Part of the success we want to have is to have guys who can bridge us however long that is,” Molitor said. “As the season goes, once in a while there could be those opportunities. But in the short term, I don’t see that happening. He’ll be starting the inning primarily. … I’m going to be pretty standard with that.”
No. 4 on No. 7
Another issue Molitor has thought about is where to bat Joe Mauer, who is coming off a down season in which he batted .277 — 42 points below his career average.
Molitor could justify dropping Mauer in the order if he’s not productive. For now, he’s not considering that after meeting with Mauer before spring training and coming away encouraged by where Mauer is physically and mentally.
“I don’t think he’s going to have to worry about being anywhere on the backside of three,” Molitor said. “We have some people who can do things at the top of our lineup with Brian [Dozier] and Danny [Santana] up top. But I’m going to try to give some guys different opportunities to hit in different spots just to see how it goes. I think as we get to closer to the end, I’ll have more of an idea of who I want to hit where.”
Torii Hunter has told Molitor he prefers batting in the No. 2 hole but will hit wherever the manager needs him.
• The Twins and Pirates are trying to schedule a B game on March 9 in Bradenton, Fla. The Twins have a Grapefruit League game against Pittsburgh that day, and they would only have to take a few more players for the B game. The extra game gives pitchers more chances to impress the Twins.
• Thursday’s workout was abbreviated so the team could participate in its annual charity golf event to raise money for local cancer care.
• Timberwolves forward Kevin Garnett has reached out to Hunter, and the two plan to dine together once the Twins return from spring training.
2014 stats: .280 average, four home runs, 44 RBI for Class AAA Rochester.
Acquired: Signed as minor league free agent on Nov. 18.
Role: Starting center fielder at Class AAA Rochester.
Did you know? Farris played for Culiacan of the Mexican winter leagues this offseason, batting .309 with three home runs, 32 RBI and nine stolen bases.
La Velle E. Neal III