Rowson: 'Create a great identity here'

July 16th, 2020

MIAMI -- As hitting coach of the Twins in 2019, James Rowson had a top-of-the-dugout view into history.

Under his direction, Minnesota’s "Bomba Squad" obliterated baseballs, amassing an MLB season record of 307 home runs.

Rowson is instituting an “attack mode” mentality this year as the Marlins' bench coach/offensive coordinator.

In Miami, Rowson’s mission is to reverse the fortunes of a sluggish squad that ranked at or near the bottom in several significant statistical categories a year ago.

“I always say, we [coaches] create the culture, but the players on this team will create their identity,” Rowson said. “And their identity will be about them. Every team has its own identity.”

There certainly are challenges working with a young and mostly unproven roster.

A year ago, the Marlins finished last in the Majors in home runs (146) and slugging percentage (.375). They also were 29th in runs (615).

It’s a change from what Rowson was seeing on a daily basis with the Twins, who ranked first in the Majors in home runs, second in runs (939) and slugging percentage (.494).

“By no means am I going to come in here and try to create the Bomba Squad, because I never created the Bomba Squad,” Rowson said. “The Bomba Squad created themselves. And they played the game in a way which created what they did.”

What Rowson is encouraging and working toward is having the Miami players themselves develop their own personality.

“We’re going to encourage the same thing here, to get these guys to be free,” Rowson said. “Play the game the way they play it, be themselves, and they’re going to create a great identity here in Miami.”

What Rowson is carrying over from his days with the Twins is his basic philosophy of giving each player his best possible plan at the plate for success.

“A lot of it is our mentality,” Rowson said. “What is our game plan? What is our approach? What are we trying to do?

“I think a lot of it has to do with getting our position players to go up to the plate with a plan every time, and have an approach for the pitching we’re going to see.”

As a coaching staff, the Marlins have shifted away from more traditional roles. The hitting side is a collective effort. Eric Duncan is the hitting coach, with Robert Rodríguez as the assistant hitting coach. Manager Don Mattingly, a former American League MVP Award winner with the Yankees, also is more hands-on with the hitters.

The Marlins have a young core of players, which includes , and , plus the addition of three established newcomers in , and .

“I think we have a lot of talent on the roster,” Dickerson said. “A little bit of power, speed, versatile guys. It should be interesting. We're young, so we'll have a ton of unity.”

Behind the core of Miami regulars are waves of prospects like Monte Harrison, Lewin Díaz and Jesús Sánchez.

“The talent is there,” Rowson said. “Now we’re trying to take that talent to the next level and get it to that next level in terms of having a game plan for specific pitchers, and for specific situations. Our guys have done a great job so far this camp in kind of adapting.”

The objective is pretty simple, and potentially exciting for Marlins fans.

“The philosophy is to get a good pitch to hit, and hit the ball hard,” Rowson said. “We’re going to be aggressive.”

Rowson preaches that the pitch to hit could be the first of an at-bat, or even eighth. The key is being ready for it at any time.

“More than anything that I'm taking away right now is, we really talk about doing damage,” said Anderson, Miami’s third baseman who hit 20 home runs and recorded an .811 OPS last year. “Our plan actually going into a game is more, 'Not what is this guy going to do, but where are those mistakes that he's making?'"

The Marlins clearly are looking to move up the power grade. A year ago, they were last in the Majors in average team launch angle (8.5 degrees), according to Statcast. The Twins, not surprisingly, were first at 14.7 degrees.

“The more times you can hit it hard and hit it in the air, the better chance you got,” Anderson said.

In terms of exit velocity, the Twins rated third on all balls put in play, averaging 89.4 mph. The Marlins were 20th in team exit velocity at 87.6 mph.

“The players we have here, I definitely see the characteristics of guys who get the ball in the air, and drive the ball to all parts of the ballpark consistently,” Rowson said. “I think time and experience will help them do it regularly at the Major League level.”