FORT MYERS, FLA. – There will be an extra visitor to the Twins’ dugout, one whose credentials include an Olympic gold medal, a silver medal and a couple of Final Four appearances. And while Hugh McCutcheon’s specialty isn’t baseball, the Twins believe leadership and player development are concepts that cross the boundaries of sports.
“You can learn stuff from other people in different sports,” said Derek Falvey, the Twins’ chief baseball officer, in disclosing that the Gophers volleyball coach has been invited to observe spring training and offer his thoughts on what he sees. McCutcheon will arrive in camp on Friday.
“I’ve spent a lot of time talking with Hugh over the winter,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He’s a great resource for me, and someone I enjoy talking to and getting his perspective. I’m looking forward to seeing him.”
McCutcheon’s experience at the highest levels of volleyball offers a lot of lessons the Twins can absorb, Falvey said. “Just an outsider’s perspective around coaching, [player] development, leadership in any capacity — he’s been a highly successful coach,” said Falvey, who also consulted Lynx coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve during the offseason. “We’ve tapped into a lot of people around town. He’s someone we’ve become friendly with, so he’s going to come [to Florida] for a few days as a continued opportunity to share learning experiences.”
The connection was first made when McCutcheon’s son and Twins General Manager Thad Levine’s son played in a youth basketball league together, Falvey said, but McCutcheon has become friendly with several members of the front office. And Baldelli played volleyball in high school — and was an all-Rhode Island-level player, in fact — so “they’ve made a connection there,” Falvey said.
The Twins will make their first cuts of spring camp Friday or Saturday, Falvey said, with a half-dozen or so players, most of them without major league experience, sent across the complex to join the minor league workouts.
It’s the first time Baldelli has had the responsibility of breaking bad news to hopeful ballplayers, and the rookie manager said he’s given some thought to how he’ll handle them. “They’re not the most fun days,” he said, “but there are positives that can come out of them.”
He and Falvey have discussed how to focus on suggestions and evaluations, how to be encouraging while delivering discouraging news.
“There are also really constructive parts of those conversations that actually help guys” to come back up eventually,” Baldelli said. “Have them return to the minor leagues, but with the hope of getting back to the big leagues. Those are the kind of conversations you hope you can turn into a positive.”
• In the Twins’ continuing quest to stockpile versatility on their bench, Mitch Garver played four innings at first base Thursday. Garver has started four games at that position during his two major league seasons.
• Lefthanded reliever Gabriel Moya hasn’t pitched in a game since the Twins’ Feb. 23 opener as he deals with “just some general tightness, soreness” in the back of his pitching shoulder, Falvey said, but the condition is not considered serious.
Newly appointed Opening Day starter Jose Berrios makes his third start of the spring, taking on the Rays at Hammond Stadium.