FORT MYERS, FLA. – The Twins notified their players in November that pitchers and catchers would be required to report to camp on Feb. 13, but soon discovered that MLB wouldn’t allow spring training to officially open until a day later.
The Twins adjusted their schedule. Most of their players didn’t.
Whether confused by the change or eager to get an early start, the Twins’ clubhouse was jammed with pitchers reporting for work on Monday morning. Nearly the entire pitching staff arrived at Hammond Stadium, even though no staff-led workouts can take place until Wednesday, when Paul Molitor first addresses his 2017 squad.
Most pitchers dressed anyway and played catch on a practice diamond and worked out lightly.
“I’m just doing my normal program, getting ready,” fifth-year starter Kyle Gibson said. “Everybody has their own system for just staying loose until we start for real.”
Newcomer Matt Belisle, who signed a free-agent contract earlier this month, was the only pitcher to throw off a mound. Phil Hughes and Glen Perkins, each recovering from surgery last summer, threw lightly in the outfield.
The new guy
Turns out, the Twins definitely will be adding at least one more free agent to their clubhouse this spring.
J.D. Kim, the interpreter who spent 2016 by Byung Ho Park’s side, accepted a job with a South Korean team over the winter, creating a job opening that the Twins and Park’s agents are trying to fill.
“We fired that guy,” Park joked with a broad smile, before revealing the real reason the position is vacant: Kim didn’t want to be an ocean away from his wife and child for another summer of baseball.
For now, Octagon Sports, Park’s U.S. agency, has sent Jae Woong Han to Fort Myers as a temporary fill-in, until it can find another interpreter who meets all the criteria: fluent in both languages, knowledgeable about baseball, able to conduct a media interview, and willing to work every day of a 162-game season, including constant travel.
Han helped agent Alan Nero negotiate Park’s contract a year ago, and served as the Korean slugger’s interpreter until Kim was hired last spring. But he has other duties for the agency, so he is eager to find a new professional to work with Park.
Park’s contract stipulates that the Twins and Octagon share in the cost of providing an interpreter.
Daniel Palka, outfielder
2016 stats: .254 avg., 34 HRs, 90 RBI in 133 total games between Class AA and Class AAA
Acquired: In a November 2015 trade with Arizona for catcher Chris Herrmann
Role: Likely headed to Class AAA Rochester to start season, but could compete for eventual left field (or even backup first base) spot.
Did you know? This is Palka’s first major league camp, but he made a strong impression a year ago, too. As a minor-leaguer brought along as roster filler on a couple of long spring road trips, Palka got six at-bats with the Twins — and smashed three home runs.