The Twins’ new era begins Tuesday, when Derek Falvey and Thad Levine oversee their pitching staff’s first workout in Fort Myers, Fla. You will have to look closely, though, to notice any subtle changes.
“I know people imagine we’re going to do everything differently. I wish I could tell you that we’re totally shaking up how we work,” manager Paul Molitor said. “But that’s not really the case. We might emphasize fundamentals a little more, but you won’t see significant changes to our workouts.”
It’s tempting, after a summer of watching the Twins make so many mistakes, to expect Falvey and Levine to demand a return to intensive remedial instruction, or invent some crazy-looking drills that magically speed up development. The reality, Molitor said, is that neither approach works. Instead, the manager, after consulting with the Twins’ new leadership on spring plans, has settled upon a handful of tweaks.
“We’ve talked about [doing] more isolated one-on-one stuff, maybe try to incorporate more baserunning. We’d like to take better advantage of players staying back” from road games, Molitor said of camp, which opens for pitchers and catchers Tuesday, and the full squad next Sunday. But upending the usual rhythm of spring, which already has a heavy emphasis on conditioning and instruction? That wouldn’t really address the Twins’ biggest issues, Molitor said.
For instance, “the problem of [ineffective] pitching is more about how we pitch than how we cover first base,” Molitor said. “We’ll practice that like always, but it’s difficult to design any extra drills or programs to pitch better. You just have to pitch.”
The most difficult challenge, Molitor said, might divvying up the workload, given that close to a dozen pitchers will be looked at, at least initially, for the starting rotation.
If there’s a big difference in how camp operates, it might be in how Molitor and his bosses whittle their roster.
“We have to be open-minded about how it’s going to fill out,” Molitor said. “I expect some tough decisions. We may have to cut it down under circumstances that might not seem overly fair.”
For a young team, the Twins lineup is unusually set entering the spring, with a heavy favorite at every position. It’s not ideal, Molitor said.
“Locked in is maybe not the best thing for young players. You want them to feel pushed a little bit, and we’ll try to do that,” Molitor said. “There are guys you have to give some rope to, to let them play and see if they fail. But I want people to have to earn their playing time.”
Still to be answered: How much Falvey and Levine will interact with the players and coaches. Molitor called Indians manager Terry Francona, who worked closely with Falvey the past couple of seasons, to get a sense of what to expect.
“He said they’re around a lot, which is good. I welcome that,” Molitor said. “I think they trust what we do in running our camp, and if they want to see a different mix, to get a better look, we’ll accommodate that. But it’s still about getting ready for the season.”