FORT MYERS, Fla. – Tom Kelly says he precedes everything he says to Paul Molitor with "It's your decision, but …" Molitor says he ignores that part, and listens carefully to whatever comes next.
"The understatement of the year is that he has a wealth of knowledge. He just sees things in a different light," Molitor said of his former Twins manager. "I already had questions for him, and he's not short on answers, which is good."
Also good: Kelly's health, following a minor stroke five months ago. The 64-year-old Kelly, who was in uniform for the first time this spring Thursday, feared he might not be up to hitting grounders and teaching infielders anymore. He has been practicing in Minneapolis, and last week he had to back off for a couple of days after overdoing it.
"I seem to do really well when I operate at my own pace. It's a good pace. It's maybe not the same pace I had when I was 25 years old. But I have a decent, working pace," said Kelly, who figures he can hit just short of 100 grounders a day. "But to turn that notch to 10, that's not going to work."
Which is OK with Molitor, who wants Kelly here for his mind, not his fungo bat.
"He'll say, 'Do you mind if I throw a few [ideas] out there?' And I say, 'Give me my paper,' " Molitor said, pretending to take notes.
One piece of advice that Molitor intends to follow: Choose a couple of games near the end of camp and, rather than shuffle players in and out in order to get everyone some work, as is usually the case during exhibition games, manage as though it's the regular season. Limit yourself to 25 players, use pinch hitters and situational relievers as you plan to this season, and try to win.
Molitor said Kelly would be an ideal bench coach, but he knew better than to ask when he was hired last November.
"If he still has things he wants to do in baseball, I don't think bench coach is one of them," Molitor said.
Television was one of them, and Kelly filled in as an analyst for a handful of games every year, but "I'm pretty much retired from that business," he said. His insights were fascinating, many viewers agreed, but Kelly said it's not a good venue for him. "It's hard for me sometimes to explain things in 18 [or] 17 seconds. I don't know how to get a point out that I want to make in that amount of time," he said.
That's for later, though. For now, Kelly said, he's just eager to get back to work. "It's always fun to see the green grass, I'll tell you that."