Mike Berardino / St. Paul Pioneer Press
BALTIMORE — After making the long climb from bad to good in Paul Molitor’s first season at the helm, the 2016 Twins have set out to make an even tougher transition. That would be the one that takes them from good to great. Or at least from a club that chased a wild-card berth into the final weekend of the 2015 season to one that secures a postseason bid. Better still, the Twins would find a way to win the American League Central for the first time in half a dozen years.
BALTIMORE — Paul Molitor’s first Opening Day in the major leagues was rained out. It happened in April 1978, when he was a rookie shortstop with the Milwaukee Brewers. “A little bit torturous for a rookie to have to wait 24 hours,” Molitor recalled before a 3-2 loss in Monday’s rain-soaked season opener at Camden Yards. “We sat around quite a while. Tailgaters got their time in.”
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Near the end of spring training, Paul Molitor made bunting an emphasis in the daily morning meeting with players in the Twins clubhouse. That afternoon, Danny Santana and other players made a point of going out and trying to drop the first successful bunts of the spring. “At least that shows they’re listening,” Molitor said with a smile. Heading into Year 2 of his late-blooming managerial career, the hall of fame player from St. Paul seems even more at ease in a role he had never held before 2015 — at any level.
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Anthony Swarzak made 17 regular-season starts in the Korea Baseball Organization last summer, two against the Nexen Heroes. So Swarzak, the former Twins right-hander (2009-14) now on a minor league deal with the New York Yankees, has a unique perspective on Byung Ho Park and his ability to transition to the major leagues.
JUPITER, Fla. — As he packed up for the nearly three-hour bus ride back across the state, Nick Burdi already had a pretty good idea how he would make the most of his time. At 23, he’s part of the generation that has made Netflix binge-watching an art form.
It didn’t take long for Twins reliever Alex Meyer to benefit from the addition of LaTroy Hawkins as a spring instructor
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Kennys Vargas isn’t just a physical doppelganger of Twins-era David Ortiz. He remains a willing protégé paying close attention to the Boston Red Sox slugger, whose farewell tour began in earnest Wednesday with the Grapefruit League opener at JetBlue Park. “It’s an honor to be in this situation,” Vargas said Wednesday, “with him being in his last year and me going to play against him in a spring training game. I want to enjoy his last year.”
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Byung Ho Park’s first Grapefruit League game is behind him. That’s about the best thing one can say after the Korean slugger’s three-strikeout debut for the Twins on Wednesday afternoon against the Boston Red Sox. “It was the first game, so I’ve got to admit I was a little nervous,” Park said through his interpreter. “Just because it’s the first game, it (means) nothing too much, nothing too less. I’m feeling good. I’m glad I got the first one out of the way.”
FORT MYERS, Fla. — LaTroy Hawkins, barely four months removed from pitching in the postseason, kicked off his shoes and stepped on a scale in the Twins clubhouse Sunday morning. Freshly retired at 43 after 21 seasons in the majors. Hawkins leaned forward to peer at the reading: 212 pounds. “Not bad,” said Perry Castellano, the Twins’ strength and conditioning coordinator. “Especially dressed and after breakfast.” Hawkins pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and handed it to Castellano. “Here, take a picture,” he said, pride in his voice.
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Back on a baseball field for the first time since a near-fatal heart attack last September, Rod Carew had no doubt about his next stop. “As soon as we get guys in the (batting) cage, that’s where I’m headed,” the 70-year-old hall of famer said Saturday as Twins full-squad workouts opened. “I came here to work. I didn’t come here to just do nothing and walk around. I’m looking forward to it.”