HUTCHINSON, MINN. – As soon as the floor was opened for questions at the McLeod County Fairgrounds on Monday, a woman in Twins gear stood up with one for manager Paul Molitor.
“What is going to happen with Brian Dozier?”
Well, that didn’t take long.
The annual Twins winter caravan kicked off Monday, with Molitor anticipating some questions, such as ones about his All-Star second baseman. Dozier has received interest from several clubs, notably the Dodgers, but remains with the Twins. Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey and General Manager Thad Levine want a substantial return for a middle infielder who hit 42 home runs last season and is set to make a mere $15 million over the next two seasons. The club has indicated that it is ready to move on after not getting a satisfactory offer.
“I spoke to Brian last week,” Molitor told the fan. “I said you should feel good about the fact that you’re at a level in your career where what happens to you is important to all baseball fans. For Twins fans who have grown accustomed to seeing him play at a high level the past few years, I plan on having him for spring training. That’s how we are going forward.”
The group of about 100 fans applauded.
But there’s plenty of caravan left, and the Twins have more explaining to do after going 59-103 last season, the worst season for the franchise since its arrival to Minnesota in 1961.
After the Twins lost 24 more games than they did in 2015, out went longtime GM Terry Ryan and in came the young executive duo of Falvey and Levine. So far, free-agent catcher Jason Castro has been the biggest name brought into the team.
Yup, many of the culprits responsible for last year are back. And Molitor will spend the caravan — then TwinsFest, Jan. 27-29 at Target Field — attempting to explain why things will be better in 2017. Molitor on Monday was joined by relievers Ryan Pressly and Brandon Kintzler, with television play-by-play announcer Dick Bremer serving as the host. The group made three stops, in Hutchinson, New Ulm and Mankato.
Another group made ended Monday in Duluth and will be on the Iron Range today.
“We think we have the pieces to turn things around sooner than later,” Bremer said to fans in Hutchinson, “so your patience will be rewarded.”
Molitor spoke about conversations he has had with players during the offseason. For instance, he spoke with the agent for third baseman Miguel Sano and came away assured that he has stuck to his workout plan and will be motivated to come in and prove he can hold down third base after failing to adapt to right field last season.
Molitor also spoke of how he looks for the young core of players to continue to develop, and how he hopes pitchers Phil Hughes (thoracic outlet syndrome) and Glen Perkins (torn labrum) will return from surgeries that knocked them out for most of last season.
While looking at Pressly and Kintzler during the stop at the New Ulm Community Center, Molitor said: “I hope we don’t have to call down [to the bullpen] as much this year. We really had to use them a lot.”
Barring a late move for an impact player, Molitor is trying to sell hope based on the improvement of many players already on the roster, as well as better health.
And that could be a tough sell to an impatient fan base.
“I have a vision of how this can turn around and turn around quickly,” Molitor told a group of about 200 fans in New Ulm. “We’re going to get back out there in a less than a month, and we can’t wait to get back out there and start competing.”