"I just tried to be myself as much as possible," Gimenez said. "I feel that a couple of my better attributes, besides my stunning good looks, like my presence in the clubhouse, made a difference. I had a chance to connect with some of the guys on some different levels, and that goes a long way in a younger clubhouse with some younger pitchers. I think that was an attribute that they wanted to have."
Gimenez was part of one of the more wide-open competitions with John Ryan Murphy for the backup backstop job this spring. Coaches said that it was one of the tougher decisions and that both players performed well enough to win the job. Murphy was designated for assignment before the team's game against the Tampa Bay Rays in Port Charlotte on Thursday, leaving Gimenez as the primary backup to starter Jason Castro.
"Obviously, it is a very welcome feeling," Gimenez said. "There's never an Opening Day that you don't like, and it doesn't matter where it is or what role it is in. I'm grateful that I have the opportunity to be a part of Opening Day with Minnesota."
The 34-year-old Gimenez batted .257 with six RBIs in 16 games this spring. Murphy batted .185 with a home run and five RBIs in 15 games.
"It was tough," Twins manager Paul Molitor said of the decision. "We challenged Murphy to turn the page on last year and come in and be a better player. He applied himself, and we like his catching skills, and his at-bats were a lot better consistently this year than what we saw last year. But Gimenez has got some things that we found appealing in terms of experience and his effect on other people."
That effect can trickle through the entire pitching staff. Gimenez said that by getting to know the individual pitchers, he is able to tailor his pitch calling.
"I take pride into [calling a game], and I put a lot of thought into it," he said. I don't just put down fingers to put them down. There's a lot of thought process behind it because I really want to put my pitchers in the best situation to be successful, and that is always a huge goal of mine."
In his eight-year Major League career, which included stints with the Cleveland Indians (three times), Seattle Mariners, Rays and Texas Rangers, Gimenez has compiled a .218 average in 289 games. He doesn't mind the backup role, as long as he can help his team win.
"With a young group I like to see when they are successful because success breeds more success, and I think last year we had some guys that struggled a little bit," he said. "Even if it's in the bullpen, I'm going to identify whatever I can to help these guys along and become successful."
J. Scott Butherus is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Twins on Thursday.