CHICAGO — Paul Molitor had a special project during spring training. It paid off on Friday.
“You try to build relationships with your players throughout the spring, and when they support you for that, it makes you feel really good,” Molitor said after surviving a beer-shower celebration with his players over his first first win as Twins manager. “I didn’t know how to react, but it was pretty nice.”
That’s how the players feel about him, too.
“Mollie is a guy who has a good relationship with everybody,” said second baseman Brian Dozier. “You really want to get the first one under your belt — for him.”
Suzuki tried to avoid getting hurt during the jump-around dancing portion of the party, but said he was thrilled for his new manager.
“It’s special playing for Mollie,” Suzuki said. “You see the passion, the amount he cares and wants you to learn and how much he puts into this game. To finally get his first win was special. In Detroit, things didn’t go too well, but he was always smiling, staying behind us.”
A couple of other notes from another Opening Day:
— Brian Duensing picked up his first save since May 28, 2013, and just the second of his career, by remaining in the game after recording the final out of the eighth inning. The Twins led 3-0 at the time, and Glen Perkins was warming up for the ninth inning. But when the Twins scored three runs in the ninth, Perkins was told to sit down, and Duensing remained in the game to complete the shutout. It was a save situation when Duensing entered, but with a six-run lead, it wouldn’t have been for Perkins.
— Tommy Milone didn’t have many baserunners to deal with, but he made life difficult for one of them. When Micah Johnson led off the third inning with a bunt single, Chicago’s lone hit until the eighth inning, he tried to steal second on a pitch that Adam Eaton grounded to Dozier. The Twins only led 1-0 at the time, so Johnson represented a potentially important run.
But not for long. Johnson took off for third base with Melky Cabrera at the plate, and Milone whirled toward second to pick him off.
“That was a big play,” Molitor said. “We could tell he was anxious to run. … Tommy saw that he was kind of jumping out there, used a little spin move. I was fearful — it looked like he was going to throw to second. I think he was surprised he caught the guy halfway to third, but he recovered, made the throw, and took away a little of their momentum.”
— General manager Terry Ryan said he’s not surprised that the Twins eventually had to use all three of their spring finalists for a rotation spot this season. He just didn’t think it would take seven games to do it.
“It didn’t take us long. I warned the people we sent down — because there was some disappointment in that room that particularly day — to be ready, because things happen,” Ryan said. “I didn’t think it would happen so quick. I didn’t have much interest in it happening that quick. But it has.”
Milone won the job, but Mike Pelfrey was given a starting role, too, when Ervin Santana was suspended by Major League Baseball for failing a steroid test. And now Ricky Nolasco has gone on the disabled list, making room for Trevor May, too.