SAN DIEGO – Derek Shelton, it appears, has taken a couple funny shots at his former boss, Rocco Baldelli.
Shelton, the former Twins bench coach who was hired to manage the Pittsburgh Pirates last month, could not resist commenting on Baldelli on Monday after a humorous report on HardballTalk ranked the Twins skipper as the most handsome manager in Major League Baseball.
“I’ve stated many times that his greatest strength is his humility,” Shelton said during baseball’s winter meetings, “but the fact that he was voted the most handsome manager in baseball is an unbelievable honor. I think the Twins should do something about that, like having a Rocco Baldelli handsome night. The promotions team should get on that.”
It reflects the relationship Shelton had with Baldelli through the years. They were on the coaching staff with the Rays in 2015-16, and Shelton stayed on as Twins bench coach when Baldelli was hired just over a year ago. They are friends. They are forward-thinkers.
And now they both are in the top 10 of the most handsome managers list. Shelton was ranked 10th.
“Know what that is,” Twins General Thad Levine said. “Not first.”
Now, there might be another, more important, competition between them. Both the Pirates and Twins were in the hunt for a new bench coach. The Twins had their eyes on Astros first base coach Don Kelly for the job, but Shelton hired the Pittsburgh-area native over the weekend before the Twins could make an offer.
“Rocco and I view the game very similar, and we view how people look at the game similar,” Shelton said. “I would think at times we would identify the same people.”
Baldelli and Shelton helped steer the Twins to 101 victories and an AL Central championship. Shelton made a seamless transition from working under Paul Molitor in 2018 to doing things differently under Baldelli. He delegated a lot to Shelton so that the manager could focus on shifting the culture in the clubhouse. And the arrangement worked smoothly. Three hours after Shelton spoke of himself and Baldelli being kindred spirits on Monday, Baldelli agreed with that description.
“Sheltie and I have shared many conversations over the last 10 years, but many more over the last year,” Baldelli said, “and we think alike in some ways. That being said, I think he knows how important it is to get staff members that he thinks are going to make a great impact. He’s already started doing that.
“Don Kelly’s a wonderful human who is going to do great work for Sheltie, and I think Sheltie is ecstatic to have him on his staff but we’re going to find some great staff members and get them in there. Do we know how it’s all going to work together right now? No, but that’s what we’re figuring out as we speak.”
Shelton now is poring a new foundation for the Pirates, who are moving on from Clint Hurdle after nine seasons as manager. Having been through the transition from Molitor to Baldelli, Shelton said he believes he has an advantage in the process.
The two will get to catch up again Feb. 22, when they face each other in the Grapefruit League opener in Bradenton, Fla. Shelton would not confirm if he has any pranks in store for Baldelli, a practice that goes back to their days with the Rays under Kevin Cash.
“It’s a long spring training,” Shelton said.
The Twins, meanwhile have been forced to overhaul their coaching staff. Assistant pitching coach Jeremy Hefner left to become pitching coach of the Mets. Hitting coach James Rowson left for the Marlins, where he will be bench coach and offensive coordinator. While looking to add a few players to help defend their division title, the Twins have named Edgar Varela as the new hitting coach, but they still need to replace Shelton and Hefner.
“You don’t want to lose Sheltie or J Row or Hef,” Baldelli said. “We know that, and I certainly am thinking that but there are also really positive ways to look at it as well and it’s an opportunity to build out a staff in a different way.
‘‘And like I said, there are a lot of people out there that have great strengths.”