'Gardy' among Twins to visit Worthington
WORTHINGTON -- Baseball fans were treated to some warm thoughts and a few laughs as the 2013 Minnesota Twins Caravan made a stop Tuesday at the Worthington Area YMCA.
The event featured Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, former catcher and new bench coach Terry Steinbach and middle infielder Brian Dozier. Twins television announcer Dick Bremer served as the master of ceremonies.
"Last night, we were in Mankato, where it was 3 degrees, and I caught myself speaking of winter in the past tense," Bremer told a crowd of about 80 Twins fans in Worthington. "I think when we head out on the caravan and you come to hear the Twins personnel talk about the start of a new season, it does signify the end of winter and the start of spring. Pitchers and catcher report (to spring training) in less than four weeks. Baseball really is right around the corner."
On the first day of spring training, Gardenhire, who enters his 12th season as a major league manager, might have a hard time recognizing some of his players.
"We have a lot of new players. I'm going to have to have a laminated sheet in my pocket, trying to figure out names, numbers and matching them," Gardenhire said. "But that's OK because we have signed some pretty good pitchers. We lost some good players in (Denard) Span and (Ben) Revere. You end up trading them because the only way to get good players is to get some needs filled. We needed pitching, we made some moves and, hopefully, these pitchers are going to work out."
The Twins picked up Vance Worley from Philadelphia in exchange for Revere. Minnesota added Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey via free agency. Along with Scott Diamond, they will settle into the Twins' starting rotation in 2013.
Span was dealt to the Washington Nationals for starter Alex Meyer, who is Minnesota's top pitching prospect and will likely start the season in Triple-A Rochester.
"We knew that we had to revamp our starting pitching and our minor league system," said Gardenhire, who enters the final year of his contract this season. "I think we did a little bit of both to where it's going to pay off with more wins and a better baseball team."
After going 94-68 in 2010 and winning the second of two straight American League Central Division championships, the Twins have gone 129-195 during the last two seasons with a pair of basement finishes within the division.
Steinbach, a native of New Ulm, will work to improve the Twins catching, which handled a pitching staff that compiled a 4.77 ERA last season (third to worst in the majors).
Steinbach, who was a three-time American League All-Star (1988, 1989 and 1993) and an All-Star Game MVP (1988), became a World Series champion as a catcher for the Oakland Athletics, who swept the San Francisco Giants in four games during the infamous 'Battle of the Bay Earthquake Series' in 1989. He played his final three seasons with the Twins from 1997 to 1999.
"Winning the World Series is what every player strives for because it's the ultimate goal," Steinbach said, who made his major league debut in 1986 by homering in his first at-bat against the Indians' Greg Swindell at Cleveland's Municipal Stadium.
Steinbach recounted his thoughts from the earthquake that postponed Game 3 of the 1989 World Series.
"I had been the catcher for Dave Stewart in Game 1 and Mike Moore in Game 2. The earthquake hit about 15 minutes before Game 3," Steinbach said. "Our backup catcher, Ron Hassey, was scheduled to catch Bob Welch that night. I was on the bench, getting ready for the pregame ceremonies. It was a very festive time.
"We were just about to be introduced and, all of a sudden, you heard something," Steinbach said. "Candlestick (Park) was right next to the airport. So, I though it might have been an airplane flying overhead with a banner attached to it. It was really loud. Then, as I was looking up from the dugout, you could see the concrete overhang that went around the bowl of the stadium and it was shaking."
During his 14-year major league playing career, Steinbach was on the receiving end of two no-hitters -- Dave Stewart in 1990 and Eric Milton in 1999. He hit .271 with 162 home runs and 745 RBI in 1,546 games.
Dozier, who hit .234 with six home runs and 33 RBI during his rookie campaign in 2012, said he has learned a lot by playing one season in the majors and has tried to improve during the offseason.
"A season has its ups and downs, but being consistent over 162 games is one thing, more than anything, that I have taken into the offseason," Dozier said. "I've tried to build up my speed and my range while being in the weight room."
Dozier said his workout partner has been Twins left fielder Josh Willingham.
"About three or four days ago, I went to see Josh, who lives about 45 minutes away from me in Mississippi," Dozier said. "We had planned to work out together. He likes to do the 15-minute P90X routines, while I had been working out two to three hours a day. Josh hit 35 home runs last season. So, you might see me doing P90X from here on out."
Dozier, who played 83 games at shortstop last season, is expected to play there and at second base in 2013.
"I've played shortstop my whole life and, during this offseason, I've spent a lot of time working out at second base," Dozier said. "At second base, it feels lopsided a lot of times because the ball comes at you in a different way. At shortstop, you can see the runner coming out of the corner of your eye. At second base, the footwork on turning a double play is different."