Twins finally get glimpse of Simmons' magic

New shortstop reports after travel delays, hopes to get into game within week

March 7th, 2021

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Players, coaches and executives around the Twins have all expressed their excitement about seeing ' defensive ability through hypotheticals for long enough.

"Amazingness -- that's such a bland word to use," pitcher Matt Shoemaker said. "There's more to it, right? I've watched him play for so long. Having him behind me just excites me through the roof."

"There's no exaggeration when you're saying that Andrelton Simmons is one of the greatest defenders that we've ever seen in our game," manager Rocco Baldelli shared. "I don't think that's a drastic statement of any kind."

"When we signed him, I sent it to my wife," pitcher Randy Dobnak added. "She's like, 'Who is that?' I was like, 'You're going to find out.' My dad kept sending me highlights. ... Hopefully he gets down here soon."

Enough anticipation. The real deal has arrived.

At long last, Simmons took part in his first day of workouts with the Twins on Sunday following his delayed arrival in camp due to travel documentation problems in leaving his native Curaçao. He got to walk around and get the lay of the land, do some stretching, play some catch and get a little batting practice in.

He'd continued to work at home to maintain his readiness in everything but his ability to see live pitching. That will come, too, and Baldelli expressed confidence that Simmons could ramp up to appearing in a game within the week. No harm done -- especially since he'll still have three weeks or so to prepare for the regular season.

"I didn’t know exactly when everything was going to be done, but it wasn’t stressful," Simmons said. "I got to work a little bit with my dad, with my brother, do some stuff, try to be as prepared as I can to be ready for whenever I got here. The one thing I didn’t get was live pitching, but hopefully, I’ll get those the next couple of days and be game-ready as soon as possible."

It helped that this wasn't Simmons' first time needing to scramble to get his paperwork done, as he noted he had to deal with similar circumstances leading into a previous Spring Training with the Braves. This time took longer due to a host of different issues that came together, including a carnival in Curaçao and inclement weather that delayed processing for his case.

He'll continue his ramp-up with a limited number of staffers at the Twins' facility during Monday's off-day and should get a chance to face live pitching on the back fields before he begins to work his way into games. That's when he'll likely get a better idea of whether the remaining Spring Training period will offer enough plate appearances for him to feel fully ready for the season.

"I don't have a particular number [of at-bats needed], but I'll try to be as fast as possible to try and get in a game," Simmons said. "Once I get into a game situation, that kind of jump-starts things a little more. The focus automatically increases. Whenever that happens, whenever I feel comfortable and the manager feels like he wants to put me in there, I'll be ready to go and I'll try to get locked in as soon as possible for everybody."

Since Jorge Polanco has seen plenty of reps at second base this spring and Josh Donaldson made it into his first Grapefruit League game in Sunday's 8-4 win over the Rays, Simmons is the final piece missing from the revamped Twins infield that looks to be the most improved part of the roster from the 2020 club.

They can't wait for him to bring his unique flair and eye for the game to complete that puzzle -- and even one day in, they're already seeing that in play.

"It’s enjoyable to see a guy out there who can do things and has his own style of playing shortstop, his own actions really that are unique to him," Baldelli said. "He looked like he was doing great."