Twins making progress on filling coaching vacancies
SAN DIEGO -- The Minnesota Twins knew it was possible — and even likely — that members of their coaching staff would be poached by other teams this offseason. They thought highly of the group they had in place, and knew other teams did, too.
But losing three members of a staff that oversaw a division winning team that won 101 games? That hurts.
A year after rebuilding much of their staff, the Twins are doing it again, dealing with the losses of bench coach Derek Shelton, hitting coach James Rowson and assistant pitching coach Jeremy Hefner.
Shelton, a longtime Rocco Baldelli confidant, took over as manager of the Pirates. Rowson is now the Marlins’ bench coach and offensive coordinator. Hefner is the Mets’ new pitching coach.
“You genuinely felt the sense of, the altruistic side was that you wanted them to achieve the best they could achieve and take the next step in their career development track,” general manager Thad Levine said. “The business side of it was much more along the lines of, you aspire to retain their services and have them help be part of this championship organization. I found myself saying to each of the guys, ‘I’d be ecstatic if you got this job and I’d also be ecstatic if you don’t get this job.’ ”
The Twins have replaced one already, promoting Edgar Varela, who previously served as organization’s minor league field coordinator, to hitting coach in November. They have yet to fill the vacant assistant pitching coach or bench coach job, but are currently vetting candidates.
Baldelli said they are in the process of working through the other two additions to the staff, and while they’re not rushing it, they would like to complete their staff and get to work. He said he thought they were “getting close,” with the hires.
“It’s an opportunity to build out a staff in a different way,” Baldelli said. “…There are a lot of people out there that have great strengths. They might be different strengths than the guy that we previously had but it’s a good test for us, too, to go out there and be able to regroup and kind of settle in and give it another go with a different group of guys.”
Twins 'open-minded' on corner infielder
It appeared the Twins opened up a need for a corner infielder earlier this month when they non-tendered first baseman C.J. Cron, whose season had been hampered by a thumb injury that required offseason surgery.
But it doesn’t seem like the team feels that a corner infielder is its most urgent need, as the Twins are happy with their current options, which consist of third baseman Miguel Sano, shortstop Jorge Polanco, second baseman Luis Arraez and the multi-positional Marwin Gonzalez.
That in addition to Ehire Adrianza, who moved around the infield last season, and Willians Astudillo.
“(There are) four guys that probably could have been penciled in as potential regulars,” chief baseball officer Derek Falvey said. “We’re going to remain flexible. … I would just say that we’re probably going to stay open-minded to what that looks like through either trade or the free agent market, and that might take more time to figure out.”
With a host of infielders capable of moving around — moving Miguel Sano to first could be an option, even — the Twins have some added flexibility to work with when thinking about filling the position.
“If we were going to add a player, we could add the best player that we want instead of the best player at a certain position, because we have a bunch of guys that are not only capable of playing other positions, but that are also selfless and are generally willing to move around on the field for the betterment of the team,” Baldelli said. “It does a lot of good.”
A new title for Baldelli
Baldelli said he awoke to a stream of text messages Monday morning that kept rolling in.
He had just been named “Baseball’s Most Handsome Manager,” in an annual list ranked by NBC Sports baseball writer Craig Calcaterra. Baldelli was fourth a year ago.
“It’s exactly what I was hoping to wake up to this morning,” he joked. “They’re rolling in.”
Among those to reach out, Shelton, who had plenty of fun teasing his former boss. Shelton himself checked in at No. 10 in his first year on the list.
“I’m a huge fan of satire and I love ‘The Onion,’” Baldelli said. “…Congratulations to Craig on his new job at ‘The Onion.’ I think he’s doing wonderful and I think that we all appreciate what he does very much.”