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Twins make Molitor hire official

Paul Molitor

MINNEAPOLIS — The Twins named Paul Molitor their manager on Monday, replacing Ron Gardenhire with another inside man — although this time one with local roots and a Hall of Fame pedigree.

Molitor, 58, ended his playing career with three seasons in Minnesota, where he grew up in St. Paul and became the third overall pick in the 1977 amateur draft after graduating from Cretin-Derham Hall and playing for the University of Minnesota.

The team’s 13th manager since the Twins moved to Minnesota in 1961, he has a three-year contract through the 2017 season, the team said.

An infielder and designated hitter with Milwaukee, Toronto and the Twins, he retired in 1998 with a .306 career batting average and a World Series ring earned with the Blue Jays in 1993. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2004.

The Twins will introduce Molitor at a news conference at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Target Field.

Gophers’ baseball coach John Anderson, 59, and Molitor were teammates at Minnesota. The Big Ten’s winningest all-time baseball coach remains close with Molitor.

“Paul will be able to build a strong clubhouse, he’ll build relationships with the players and trust, and he’s got instant credibility,” Anderson said. “He’s seen it all in his career. He’s spent his whole baseball career, since he started playing, preparing for this moment and opportunity. He’ll be a strong and authentic leader and he’ll do a fabulous job.”

Boston Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo was the apparent runner-up as the Twins opted to stay in-house for just their third manager in nearly three decades. They hadn’t fired a manager since Ray Miller was replaced by Tom Kelly in September 1986.

“Molly is so creative in the game that he won’t have a distinct style of saying, ‘I’m going to be this, I’m going to be that,’ ” said Billy Peterson, who coached Molitor in VFW baseball and at Cretin-Derham Hall. “He’s going to mesh everything he knows about baseball and put it in there. He’s not going to be one of these guys who say, ‘We’re a small-ball team or we’re a big-ball team.’ He’ll do what needs to be done.”

Molitor, a first-ballot hall of famer who ranks 10th all-time with 3,319 hits, spent 16 of the past 19 seasons in the Twins organization in a variety of capacities. He served as the infield coach on Gardenhire’s final big-league staff in 2014.

“For the ability to do what needs to be done (with the Twins), he’s great,” Peterson, 74, said. “He’s so creative — he knows baseball better than anybody. He’s just a baseball man.

“I don’t think he’ll have a (managing) style. He knows old baseball — the small ball — and he knows new baseball, the big ball: the home runs’ and all that stuff. And he’ll know when to mix the two.”

Molitor finished his 21-year playing career with three seasons in a Twins uniform (1996-98). He spent two seasons as bench coach under Kelly (2000-01) and was interviewed after Kelly retired following the 2001 season, but the job went to Gardenhire instead.

Gardenhire was fired Sept. 29 after 13 seasons. He led the Twins to six division titles in his first nine seasons, but the Twins lost at least 92 games in each of his final three. He was a longtime Twins minor league manager and the third base coach when general manager Terry Ryan hired him to succeed Kelly in January 2002.

Kelly, who won World Series in 1987 and 1991, started in the Twins organization as a player in 1971.

The Twins have offered Gardenhire, under contract for $2 million in 2015, a job in the organization.

Molitor becomes the second active manager in the Hall of Fame, joining Philadelphia’s Ryne Sandberg. While many Hall of Fame players have become managers — including Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson and Tris Speaker, only three have gotten their first managing jobs after they were inducted: Ted Williams, Sandberg and Molitor.