FORT MYERS, Fla. – Former Twins hitting coach James Rowson would refer to opposing pitchers as “the clown with the red nose,” just to get hitters to worry less about whomever was on the mound and more about the damage they can do at the plate.
The Twins lost Rowson’s wit to Miami, but they don’t believe their philosophy walked out of the door as well. That philosophy, of you ask them, is that there is no philosophy.
“And I really don’t ever like talking about organizational hitting philosophies, because I don’t think that makes sense,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “That sounds like a one-size fits all mentality, and that’s not the way we do things here.”
Edgar Varela, hired to replace Rowson after spending two years as the Twins minor league field coordinator, is the lead hitting coach and will be in the dugout during games. Rudy Hernandez has been the assistant hitting coach the past five seasons but got a bump in title to co-hitting coach during the offseason. Both will work with hitters in the way Rowson did — to them find the swing that best suits them.
Varela was a hitting coach for seven seasons in the minors before being Pittsburgh’s Latin American hitting coordinator in 2017.
Mitch Garver was pleased to learn about Varela’s coaching background. Last year, the catcher worked with Rowson before the games in which he started. When he didn’t start, he would do in-game work with Hernandez. It didn’t matter to him who he worked with.
“Things aren’t going to change for me, “Garver said.
Last year, Nelson Cruz played in a Feb. 23 game then didn’t appear in the next 12. Part of the reason was a pulled leg muscle that the Twins were careful with, but they planned to take it easy with him then — and just like they plan now.
Cruz was 2-for-3 with a home run and two RBI in Monday’s 3-2 victory over Boston at Hammond Stadium. Cruz singled hard off the foot of Red Sox starter Nathan Eovaldi in the first inning before belting an opposite-field home run off Kyle Hart in the third. Cruz struck out looking in the fifth.
There might not be another 12-game layoff for Cruz this year, especially when there are split-squad games scheduled for Wednesday. But the Twins will be careful using him.
“Nelson is going to take a day,” Baldelli said. “We’re on the road tomorrow. He won’t be out there. We are going to see a lot of our guys on the split-squad day.”
After Kenta Maeda pitched two innings, the Twins used the same five pitchers over the next five innings that they did Friday against the Gophers. Trevor May, Tyler Duffey, Matt Wisler, Blaine Hardy and Danny Coulombe all threw Monday. May and Duffey have looked sharp.
“Well, it is early, but it’s still nice to see them throw the ball like that,” Baldelli said. “We’ve talked about the bullpen being one of our strengths, and it’s about as good as any bullpen group in baseball. We still all believe that. Watching them throw the ball today doesn’t change any of that.”
The Twins on Tuesday will make their first appearance in North Port to meet their new neighbors, the Braves. Atlanta is playing at CoolToday Park after moving from Kissimmee. Jhoulys Chacin will start for the Twins, facing the Braves’ Mike Foltynewicz.
La VELLE E. NEAL III