BONITA SPRINGS, FLA. – Paul Molitor is going to try it again.
The Twins manager tried to address baserunning last season and saw it fail to meet his expectations on multiple levels.
“Baserunning wasn’t fantastic,” Molitor said Friday, days before the beginning of his second spring camp on the job. “Defending baserunning wasn’t fantastic. Those are things, beginning on Monday, we’ll talk to the pitching staff about. I much rather have guys get people out then get overly consumed by those things.”
But he added: “I think [opponents] stole at a 81 percent clip on us last year. I think the league average was about 70 percent. Those kind of things you can do better at.”
Molitor is right. The Twins threw out only 19 percent of players attempting to steal against them last season. The 93 steals against the Twins were seventh most in baseball. Offensively, the Twins were successful on 65 percent of their steal attempts, 23rd in the major leagues.
The Twins aren’t loaded with speed burners, so they won’t rack up high steal numbers. Molitor wants them to run the bases smartly, to take what it given to them. That didn’t go entirely smoothly last season.
Molitor considered altering parts of his spring training schedule but decided not to make many changes. One thing he wrestled with was going over game situations that might occur just a handful of times during the season. Was it a valuable use of his time?
“There won’t be any major changes,” Molitor said.
Molitor met with the media at Grapefruit League Media Day, which Major League Baseball hopes will become an annual event. The Twins, Phillies, Red Sox and Tigers were represented.
Commissioner Rob Manfred met with the media for just under 30 minutes and addressed several topics. That included MLB’s ongoing quest to shorten games.
Last season, the league required batters to keep one foot in the batter’s box at all times, put a timer on pitchers warming up before innings and had managers signal to challenge calls on the field from the dugout. This season, the league wants to shorten the time between innings even more. Currently, the clock is set at 2 minutes, 25 seconds for local games and 2:45 for national games.
The league also will limit visits to the mound, although Manfred wasn’t sure yet what the rule would be.
“We’re still finalizing the rules changes for this year with the [players’ association],” Manfred said. “We will have them done in time to start the season and at least tell everyone before we start.”
By last August, the average time of game was down nearly nine minutes from 2015, to 2:53.
Manfred added that the league office will work to cut down on takeout slides at second base.
Andy MacPhail, now president of the Philadelphia Phillies, was the general manager of the Twins’ World Series winning teams in 1987 and 1991. He maintains great relationships with several Twins executives, including club president Dave St. Peter, GM Terry Ryan and Bill Smith, assistant to the president and GM.
MacPhail represented the Phillies at Friday’s event, but he stopped in Fort Myers on the way down to inspect the recent improvements for the Twins’ CenturyLink Sports Complex. MacPhail marveled over the $48.5 million renovation.
“You know how you have arms races? We have spring training facility races,” said MacPhail, who ran the Twins from 1985 to ’94. “I went to the Pirates facility and it is amazing. Their performance center is remarkable. You see the Twins have a theater that seats over 200 for their players, and the dorm. It’s remarkable how it has grown from what it was when I started.”
Glen Perkins, Kyle Gibson, Phil Hughes, Tommy Milone and Logan Darnell were among pitchers who threw on Friday. Many position players already are in town, including Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario, Oswaldo Arcia, Adam Brett Walker, Darin Mastroianni and Joe Benson.