FORT MYERS, FLA. – Rocco Baldelli typically chooses his words deliberately, careful to use precise language in order to illuminate (or sometimes obscure) his opinion. Which is why, when he addressed the entire 2020 Twins roster for the first time on Monday, he caught his audience’s attention with a conspicuously selected two-word phrase.
“It was a good feeling to hear him say that. He said, ‘We’re here to win a World Series,’ and it makes you say, yeah, we can do that,” said righthander Jose Berrios. “Last year we made the ALDS, and it’s a really good team. So why not? We can move forward.”
A new season begun in the shadow of 101 wins, of a record 307 home runs, of their first AL Central championship in nine years figured to add the weight of high expectations, and Baldelli isn’t shying away from them. One observer said the manager’s oratory produced goose bumps.
The manager said he wants the Twins to harness the momentum they built in 2019.
“We proved to ourselves a little bit [by] going out there and having a very successful year. But we want to do better,” Baldelli said. “We don’t want to go out there and have a successful year. We want to go out and do more than that.”
Few franchises understand better than the Twins how difficult that is to achieve. Minnesota, celebrating its 60th anniversary in the major leagues this year, has appeared in three World Series, in 1965, 1987 and 1991. Only six of the other 29 teams — the Orioles, A’s, Mariners, Pirates, Reds and Brewers — have not reached the World Series more recently than the Twins. And these modern Twins are in the midst of a 16-game postseason losing streak.
Baldelli addressed the team shortly before the players took the field for their first full-squad workout of the spring. Over the next 35 days, they will hold 33 more workouts, play 33 Grapefruit League or exhibition games, then open Baldelli’s second season as manager on March 26 in Oakland.
They’ll do so, Nelson Cruz said, with the belief that the 2020 season can end with a parade.
“We as players have to believe that we can make it to that point. First of all, we have to believe it,” said the 39-year-old designated hitter, who appeared in the 2010 and 2011 World Series with the Rangers. Baldelli’s address “was a great message. [The World Series] should be the goal. On paper, we look better than last year.”
That’s because among the 65 players in camp this month are veteran pitchers Kenta Maeda, Homer Bailey and Tyler Clippard, and a former MVP, Josh Donaldson, took batting practice with his new teammates.
“The team we have right now is better than last year. We won last year, and even though we got out in the first round, a lot of players saw what it’s like to play in the playoffs,” said Marwin Gonzalez. “It gave everyone more confidence for this season. And we have even more pieces right now.”
Baldelli said he isn’t afraid of high expectations, and didn’t want to leave any doubt about how far he thinks his team, which is only four years removed from a 103-loss season, can go.
“Honestly, it’s an important day. You have the opportunity to set the tone for the whole year,” Baldelli said. “The guys are really excited and into what’s going on because they can see the light. They can see that this team has the ability to do pretty much anything. We told them this morning that in that room [are] all the pieces we need to accomplish anything that we want. We just have to go out there and get it done.”