Cron eager to build off '18, play for Baldelli

January 27th, 2019

MINNEAPOLIS -- C.J. Cron is used to seeing at least some familiar faces on a new team, but when he was claimed off waivers by the Twins this offseason, he found Minnesota's roster to be completely unfamiliar. Luckily, he has a leg up on his new teammates in his familiarity with the new manager.

After Cron was claimed off waivers from the Rays and he was signed to a one-year, $4.8 million deal by the Twins this offseason, Cron met his new teammates at TwinsFest over the weekend, when players and coaches gathered -- many meeting for the first time -- to sign autographs, participate in activities and attend media sessions alongside 11,500 Twins fans.

"Knowing [manager Rocco Baldelli] definitely helped me a little bit," Cron said. "Seeing him here was really cool. Rocco's the man. I've got lots of good things to say about him."

While Baldelli has a strong understanding of data, stemming from his time in the Rays' organization, Cron spoke highly of Baldelli's ability to draw conclusions from that data and convey it to his players in effective ways -- an important tool in the modern MLB manager's skillset.

"You could definitely tell that he had what it takes [to be a manager]," Cron said. "He looks at the analytics stuff, and he's played before, so he can take the numbers and apply them. I don't know if that's getting rarer these days, but he's one of those guys that seems like he can use a good balance of both. He knows what helps and what doesn't.

"He has a game plan behind everything, it seems. It's not just random numbers coming out of his mouth. There's a game plan behind these numbers. I think having that balance between analytics and a baseball guy, you don't see that very often in the game."

Cron is just as excited to build off of his own 2018 season with the Rays, in which he hit a career-high 30 homers and set career marks in slugging (.493) and OPS (.816), thanks in part to the most consistent playing time he had seen throughout his career.

During the first four years of his career with the Angels, Cron never played in more than 116 games and he topped out at 445 plate appearances. Splitting time between first base and designated hitter for the Angels in 2018, Cron saw 560 plate appearances in 140 games.

The Twins plan to use the 29-year-old Cron as their primary first baseman in 2019.

"Just playing every day and adjusting to what the pitcher was doing and having the ability to adjust with him on a day-to-day basis instead of a couple of times a week ... it was good," Cron said. "You learn things by playing every day that you simply can't learn playing a couple of times a week. I think that was the biggest takeaway."

Pineda eager for Spring Training

's right arm is fully healed, his knee is feeling better, and he's going to be "100 percent" ready for the start of Spring Training.

"It's hard for me because I love pitching, and I want to compete and help my team," Pineda said. "It's very hard for me because I was recovering from my Tommy John [surgery]. This year, everything is different. I want to be there, and I want to play and stay together with my team."

Pineda hasn't pitched since he underwent Tommy John surgery in July 2017. Though he was on track to pitch last September, he didn't make it back to the Major Leagues after needing meniscus surgery on his right knee during a rehab assignment.

"It's very frustrating for me, because I worked so hard to pitch in September," Pineda said. "Everything was good, my arm was great in September, but I hurt my knee, so I didn't have control over that. I'm very disappointed, but there's nothing we can do. Just keeping my head up and continuing to work."

Though the Twins have only added one starter this offseason with the reported signing of to compete for the fifth spot, Pineda is also essentially a new addition to the rotation. Signed before last season to a two-year, $10 million contract, he will appear for the Twins for the first time this spring alongside , and Jake Odorizzi.