Archive for the ‘Twins’ Category

Twins make it official: Molitor to be named manager on Tuesday

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

Paul MolitorMinneapolis/St. Paul, MN - The Minnesota Twins announced today that they will name Paul Molitor the 13th Manager in club history on Tuesday, agreeing to a three-year contract that covers the 2015-17 seasons.Molitor, 58, served as a Twins coach in 2014, overseeing: baserunning, bunting, infield instruction and positioning, as well as in-game strategy. Prior to 2014, he served as the Twins minor league baserunning/infield coordinator for 10 seasons (2003, 2005-13). He was the Seattle Mariners hitting coach in 2004 and Twins bench coach from 2000-01, giving him 14 years of major league and minor league coaching experience.

The first ballot Hall of Famer was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2004 after 21 seasons in Major League Baseball. He played 2,683 career games for the Milwaukee Brewers, Toronto Blue Jays and Minnesota Twins, amassing 3,319 hits, 605 doubles, 114 triples, 234 home runs, 1,307 RBI, 1,782 runs scored, 1,094 walks and 504 stolen bases, while posting a .306 batting average. On Major League Baseball’s all-time list, he ranks ninth in hits, 11th in doubles, 19th in runs scored and 31st in games played. He is one of six players in baseball history to record over 3,000 hits and steal over 500 bases. He was named to seven all-star teams and earned four Louisville Slugger® Silver Slugger Awards.

The St. Paul native was selected by the Milwaukee Brewers with the third overall pick in the 1977 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Minnesota, where he played from 1975-77. He grew up in St. Paul and attended Cretin High School from 1971-74.

Molitor will become the 13th manager in Twins history and third since 1986. The Twins all-time managers are: Ron Gardenhire (2002-14, record of 1068-1039), Tom Kelly (1986-2001, record of 1,140-1,244), Ray Miller (1985-86, record of 109-130), Billy Gardner (1981-85, record of 268-353), Johnny Goryl (1980-81, record of 34-38), Gene Mauch (1976-80, record of 378-394), Frank Quilici (1972-75, record of 280-287), Bill Rigney (1970-72, record of 208-184), Billy Martin (1969, record of 97-65), Cal Ermer (1967-68, record of 145-129), Sam Mele (1961-67, record of 522-431) and Cookie Lavagetto (1961, record of 25-41).

Gardy out, search for new Twins manager begins

Monday, September 29th, 2014

Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN – The Minnesota Twins announced today that they will replace Ron Gardenhire as manager in Gardenhire2015.

Since joining the organization in 1987, Gardenhire held multiple coaching positions at the minor league and major league levels and was named the 12th Manager in club history in 2002.  Gardenhire led the Twins to a record of 1068-1039 (.507) in 13 seasons and trails only Tom Kelly on the Twins all-time managerial wins list.  He was named American League Manager of the Year in 2010 and guided the Twins to six American League Central Division titles, including an ALCS appearance in 2002.

The Twins will immediately begin their search for a new manager, internally and externally.  The coaching staff will be determined by the new manager in conjunction with Executive Vice President, General Manager Terry Ryan.

Q&A with Justin Morneau, Part II

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

After going 0-3 with a walk Wednesday night, Justin Morneau clings to a .317 to .316 lead over the Pirates Josh Harrison in the NL batting race. Harrison’s teammate Andrew McCutchen is close behind at .313. The Rockies are off today, while Pittsburgh closes out a 4-game series in Atlanta.

As promised, here the second part of my discussion with Morneau at Coors Field last week….(click here for Part I)…..

DZ: Just watching you hitting BP, do you approach it the same way you maybe did 10 years ago?

MORNEAU: I just try to put less stock into it. Good BP, bad BP doesn’t really say how you are going to do in the game. It’s more for getting loose and trying to square the ball up, try to keep it simple.

DZ: Before we (took a break), I asked about the All Star Game, Home Run Derby; what stands about that as the season winds down?

MORNEAU: It was a great experience. I was lucky to be able to go there and do that because it was such a cool thing to be there. Just the ovation, the reception, feeling like everyone was behind me, that was something I will never forget.

DZ: Closure kind of?

MORNEAU: You never know what is going to happen. Crazy things have happened, you never know if you end up back in the American League and you back there. Who knows, but it’s one of those things that you just take for what it was. It was a great experience.

DZ: Outside the press box at Target Field, they’ve got pictures of a former players (hanging) up (Morneau nods). Yours is up there already.

MORNEAU: (laughs)

DZ: …The Metrodome is gone, history. What are your thoughts on that building?

MORNEAU: We had a lot of great memories there, a lot of playoff teams in there, my first big league game in there, first hit, all that kind of stuff. We had some really great experiences in there. It wasn’t the best facility in the world, but, you know what, we knew what time we were playing at, no rain, no snow. It was good for what it was and we had a lot of good times there…I think as time goes on, you tend to remember the good things more than you remember the bad things.

DZ: I remember I asked you about (the Dome) right before the end of the ‘09 season and you were kind of like, “I am ready to get out of this place”. I suppose perspective changes a little bit.

MORNEAU: Yep, you see the amenities at Target Field, the cages, the weight room and all of that kind of stuff, it’s awesome. It’s stuff that you need to go prepare everyday. But, to go back and think about how good (the Dome) was; it was a pretty good place.

DZ: How about Joe Mauer, how much do you guys keep in touch?

MORNEAU: He texted me the other day to see how I was doing. We keep in touch throughout the season. We’ll go back there after the year’s over and get together with him and his wife and spend some time. He’s one of those guys I’ll be friends with long after I am done playing baseball. We’ve experienced a lot together, so he’s a guy I will always keep my eye on.

DZ: You are 33 now, nearing your mid 30s which is pretty mature for an athlete as they say, what’s easier about the game than maybe 10 years ago and what’s harder?

MORNEAU: I think I am getting better at dealing with failure. That’s something as a young player that I wasn’t very good at. I think that’s something that just comes with time. There are other things, getting your body ready, getting prepared. Taking care of yourself becomes a little more difficult as (time) goes on. It’s a little harder to recover, the older you get. Time and experience teaches you what to do in certain situations, being comfortable and knowing your routine, knowing your body (and) listening to yourself.

DZ: Do you plan on living in Minnesota when you are done playing?

MORNEAU: I have no idea…There is something to be said for having family around, having roots, friends you have known for a long time, but you never know what the next year or five years is going to bring. Can’t figure it out yet, maybe never figure it out. We are kind of nomads right now. It’s good getting to experience different parts of the country and figuring out what you like best.

DZ: One last thing, I have to ask you about the Final Vote at the All Star Game. How disappointed were you? Obviously, you don’t want to sound like you are crying about it or anything, but you had to have your hopes up about that.

MORNEAU: Yeah, I think it was something I really wanted to do. I wanted to go back there and be part of that game, but it didn’t work out. Everyone that was there deserved to be there. It was tough, but I still got to go back there and be part of the festivities. It’s a great baseball town and I got to experience it and got to enjoy my break too. It was good, it would have been awesome to be there, but it could always be worse. (I) couldn’t have been in the conversation or I could have been home or something. I try to look at the positive. It was a good experience.

See more of David Zingler’s player interviews:

September 23: Justin Morneau, Part I
September 21: Michael Cuddyer
August 31: Glen Perkins
July 22: Matt Guerrier
July 16: Maya Moore
July 9: Sam Fuld
July 4: Phil Hughes
June 11: Janel McCarville
May 2: Kurt Suzuki
April 26: Kyle Gibson
April 22: Jason Kubel

Justin Morneau Relfects on His Old and New Home, Part I

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

Justin Morneau enters tonight’s game in San Diego holding a slim .320 to .318 lead over Pittsburgh’s Josh Harrison in the National League batting race. With the Rockies long eliminated from playoff contention and baseball quickly fading from the consciousness of Minnesotans, the 2006 AL MVP’s comeback season has been largely overlooked by fans who once followed his every move.

Our paths crossed again last week at Coors Field in Denver and Morneau, as always, took time out to chat with me about his first season away from the Twin Cities, the 2013 trade to Pittsburgh, free agency, an All Star break trip to Target Field and more.

DZ: You’ve had a pretty eventful year, some ups, some downs; how would you sum it up at this point?

MORNEAU: It’s been a tough year for our team, last place isn’t ever fun. It’s been rough that way, but personally, it’s been nice to be a little more consistent throughout the year. A change of scenery, a new group of guys; it didn’t work out the way we wanted to as a team, but there are things I can look back at and be proud of.

DZ: You have something individually to play for - the batting title, you are in that race. You have the defending champ (Michael Cuddyer) a few lockers over here, have you talked to him about that much?

MORNEAU: Yeah, I’ve picked his brain a little bit. The hard thing is when you are losing games…not to solely focus on if you are 0-for-2 or 2-for-2 or whatever it is. Just try to keep playing the game to win, try not to let it become a distraction, but at the same time, just enjoy it and embrace it. So far it’s been all right.

DZ: Did you ever see yourself as a guy who would be contending for batting titles?

MORNEAU: I think everybody who plays when they are little believes that. It’s something you dream of doing, if it becomes reality or not doesn’t really matter. I hit for high average in the minor leagues as a young kid, so you never believe anything is impossible.

DZ: You guys are obviously out of the race right now. You got a little taste of it last year with Pittsburgh. The last few years with the Twins weren’t so good either. When you first came up, it seemed like you guys were in it every year. Looking back, did you take that for granted..?

MORNEAU: I don’t think you take it for granted, but I think you come to expect it. When you are playing with the same guys and you are playing well and things are going well, you just expect it to continue to happen. Obviously, injuries play a part sometimes and sometimes you just run into teams that are really good and have been able to battle through the tough times. I think you appreciate when you look back, but when you are going through it, I think it’s an expectation you have.

DZ: You were with the Twins forever and now you’ve kind of bounced around the last 13 months or so, how has that affected you?

MORNEAU: I think coming here; we’ve got two years and an option year - we’ve settled in here, settled in nice. Obviously last year, after being in the same place for so long was kind of crazy, but it was exciting at the same time. Sometimes change is good, that’s what I found this year. A little bit of change has kind of helped refresh things a little bit; a new league, new teammates and all of that stuff. Obviously, I miss those guys in Minnesota, but at the same time, something different, a different experience can go a long way.

DZ: How about your family life, did you bring them down here for the season?

MORNEAU: Yeah, they’ve been here most of the time. They’ve kind of went back-and-forth between Minnesota and the kids started school in Arizona. They’ve been down there, but I’ve gotten to see them quite a bit. We are pretty comfortable here, it’s been nice.

DZ: I’ve got to ask you about the trade last year, how were you notified of that?

MORNEAU: Terry Ryan called me in Texas into his hotel room; he called me in the night before and let me know that something was probably going to happen the next day. So I was just kind of waiting around for that deadline to come and he called me in around noon and just said, “Hey this is what we’ve got for you and this is what we are going to do.” It was just kind of crazy after that - nonstop.

DZ: What was the first thing you did?

MORNEAU: I called my wife and told her where we were going and what was happening. She caught the last flight out (to Pittsburgh) and made it in that night and saw the first game the next day in Pittsburgh and then we went back on the road. It was a long, crazy trip, but it was a good experience.

DZ: Did you know before that last game you played (with the Twins) that you were likely to get traded..?

MORNEAU: No, it was after the game. It was a pretty cool way to go, hitting a homerun that last at-bat and end up winning the game.

DZ: You were a free agent (this last offseason) for the first time, how did you approach that process?

MORNEAU: I kind of looked for who was in need of a first baseman or first baseman/DH, whatever it was. What would be a good fit for me; somewhere good to hit, somewhere with a good line-up; just an opportunity to play. I still believe in myself as an everyday player. One of the things they were doing here; they told me they didn’t want me to platoon, they were gonna give me some days off against lefties, but they were gonna give me the opportunity to hit lefties and I think that was a big factor in my decision.

At this point, it was time for batting practice and Morneau headed out of the home clubhouse and onto the field. Check back later in the week for Part II of our discussion…

See more of David Zingler’s player interviews:

September 21: Michael Cuddyer
August 31: Glen Perkins
July 22: Matt Guerrier
July 16: Maya Moore
July 9: Sam Fuld
July 4: Phil Hughes
June 11: Janel McCarville
May 2: Kurt Suzuki
April 26: Kyle Gibson
April 22: Jason Kubel

Catching Up with Michael Cuddyer

Sunday, September 21st, 2014

When the Twins promoted Michael Cuddyer to their major league roster for the first time in September 2001, the team was closing out its’ first winning season in a decade, manager Tom Kelly was set to retire and an offseason filled with contraction rumors loomed on the horizon. In 2011, after decade that featured six division championships and ended in a 99-loss debacle, Cuddyer and the franchise that drafted him in 1997 parted ways.

The only player to witness the rise and fall of the Twins Central Division Dynasty in its’ entirety, Cuddyer is currently winding down the final season of a three-year contact in Colorado. A year after capturing the National League batting crown with a .331 average, the 35-year-old has been plagued by injuries in 2014, appearing in just 44 games so far for the Rockies.

While visiting Denver last week, I caught up with the 14-year veteran and Twins fan favorite for the first time in three years.

DZ: You’ve had, in some ways, a challenging year with the injuries and everything. As the year winds down here, how would you put a bow on it all?

CUDDYER: I think that’s a good word - challenging - is a fair word. Injuries, team success, things of that nature - it kind of is what it is, you have to roll with it, deal with it and go out there and play the best you can.

DZ: Now that you are back, how important is it for you personally to finish strong?

CUDDYER: It’s always better to play well when you get out there and get a chance to play. Whether you were injured during the year or not. When you are out on the field, it’s always good to get out there and try and have success.

DZ: Free agency is coming up here again, how much does that play on your mind?

CUDDYER: Not really that much. It’s a little different this time around. Things are not as important this time around as the first time you go through free agency. We’ll see what happens, I am not a fortune teller, I don’t have a crystal ball, so I don’t know where I’ll end up or how the offseason will transpire. All you can ask for is to be healthy going into the offseason.

DZ: You are 35 now, which is mature for an athlete, what’s easier for you about the game and what’s harder?

CUDDYER: I think nothing has really changed in that respect. The game hasn’t gotten any easier, but, at the same time, I don’t think things have gotten harder. I think you just go out there and try to continue to compete, you don’t really worry about how things progress - it’s not an issue. You just go out and play the game; if you are good enough to keep playing, you are good enough to keep playing.

DZ: You’ve got to know a lot more than you did 10 years ago, don’t you? The pitchers if nothing else.

CUDDYER: (laughs) If we are talking about a 10 year span, yeah - a lot is easier then. You know guys, you know the league more. If you go year to year, things don’t really change that much.

DZ: In Minnesota we always knew you were a good player, an All Star and everything up there, but I think everybody was a little surprised when you were contending for (and winning) the batting title last year; what was that experience like?

CUDDYER: I think that’s a combination of I got to know the National League, I matured a little more as a hitter. I think things just progressed and the fact that I started getting confidence. Any time you get confidence as a hitter, that’s a snow ball effect. Now I believe I should hit, maybe not .330, but I should go out there and have success when I get onto the baseball field. That’s something you gain as you mature and you continue to play, you gain that confidence and you gain that expectation of yourself.

DZ: That’s got to mean a lot to you too, you’ll always be in the history books; (NL) Batting Champion 2013: Michael Cuddyer.

CUDDYER: Yeah, it’s definitely something I am extremely proud of because it’s not something that happened overnight even though it looks like it going from a .275 career hitter to a batting champion, it looks like it did happen overnight. It’s something that was a long, steady progression that a lot of work has gone into and a lot of work goes into to sustain that.

DZ: When you came up the Twins you guys contended basically every year. You played meaningful games in September other than your last year there…and then the last couple of years here, not so much. Looking back on that did you almost take it for granted when you were younger?

CUDDYER: Yeah, I think so. I think when you are winning every year, year in and year out, you don’t realize how hard it is to win in this league. Four bad years now that I’ve had on the team side of things. You realize how hard it is and how many things have to go your way in order to have success in this league from the team aspect.

DZ: Let’s go back to the 2011 season a little bit. Obviously, you guys has so much success before that and the bottom just fell out. I think so many people were so surprised; could you in any way, shape or form sense that things weren’t the same going into it?

CUDDYER: I don’t think so because our team really wasn’t all that different from 2010 to 2011. I think we did lose a couple of spark plugs on that team: Punto, Guerrier, Crain; guys that were part of that core that we lost. Those guys were tough to replace and it may sound corny…but there is something to be said about having those types of players and those types of guys in clubhouse that make the team run.

DZ: I always thought that Mike Redmond…

CUDDYER: Mike Redmond is another one..

DZ: He kind of gave you guys a little edge…


DZ: Back in Minnesota who do you keep in touch with - former Twins teammates?

CUDDYER: I kept in touch with Morny obviously, that’s how he came over here. That’s really pretty much it. I keep in touch with Mike Herman, some of the front office guys, some of the clubbies (clubhouse attendants) as well. I spent a lot of time with those guys the decade I was there. As far as players were concerned, Morny was pretty much the only guy.

DZ: The Metrodome is history now…what are your thoughts on that building?

CUDDYER: I loved it, I loved it. Obviously, it wasn’t the nicest place to play, people didn’t enjoy coming and watching games there very much, but it was home to me. It was my first big league home. It was home for a long time; I played more big league games in that stadium than any other stadium. It means a lot to me, I had a lot of special memories and I was sad to see it get torn down, albeit it needed to be (laughs).

See more of David Zingler’s player interviews:

August 31: Glen Perkins
July 22: Matt Guerrier
July 16: Maya Moore
July 9: Sam Fuld
July 4: Phil Hughes
June 11: Janel McCarville
May 2: Kurt Suzuki
April 26: Kyle Gibson
April 22: Jason Kubel