Winder's new plan for cranky shoulder; Twins promote mental health
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Right-hander Josh Winder is about a week behind the other Twins pitchers as he begins this camp due to an offseason flare-up of soreness in his right shoulder, but the 26-year-old expressed optimism that he and the Twins have finally found an approach to put the persistent issue to rest.
“Kind of approaching my shoulder a little bit differently this spring,” Winder said. “Working on some finer details and making sure there’s been a little bit more stability in there. It feels like a really sustainable process right now. Something I can replicate at home and come back during the season. So I really like what we’re doing in there.”
Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said that Winder experienced soreness when first starting his offseason throwing program in December, which led the club to slow down his progress. Winder has been playing catch and working through long toss and pulldowns in camp, and he hopes to progress to a bullpen session and a normal buildup starting Friday or over the weekend.
Winder first experienced right shoulder impingement while with Triple-A St. Paul in 2021, which ended his season in August. Though he made his first Opening Day roster last season, he spent two more stints on the IL with the same shoulder impingement, which limited him to 15 appearances, including 11 starts.
Though the issue has continued to flare up over the last two seasons, Winder said that there have been stints during which he has felt “really, really good,” which has made the continual returns of the problem more frustrating.
He notes that, though the diagnosis has been difficult to work out, all the experience with managing the injury has helped him better understand what works and what doesn’t work, with new strength and stability exercises and a slight tweak to his mechanics also making him hopeful that the shoulder will hold up. Falvey noted that the Twins’ assessments have Winder’s strength in “a good place” as he builds up this spring.
“I think we're definitely going to have to come up with a plan there, because we're obviously going to have higher-volume workload days where I'm facing hitters in-game and all that stuff,” Winder said. “We're just going to have to come up with a good routine of where we're still keeping all the same performance but also not just beating me up every day. I trust these guys.”
Twins draw focus to mental health in sports
All around camp on Tuesday, the Twins decided to forgo wearing their Spring Training uniforms in favor of a T-shirt displaying a simple and powerful message: “Powered by Mental Health,” with the “T” replaced by the Twins’ logo.
Players, coaches, staff members and other employees alike donned the shirt in an expression of the organizational support for seeking mental health help and resources for anyone who needs them -- especially in a sport and a competitive environment in which people have been hesitant to acknowledge those issues or ask for help.
The backs of the shirts featured a variety of word associations provided by Minor League players when asked about mental health, from “You are not alone” to “Everyone struggles.”
“I think that we have made a concerted effort as a team to remove some of the stigma around professional sports environments that you don't talk about mental health, you bury your feelings, you bury any of those things that feel concerning to you,” Falvey said.
Falvey credited the work that the Twins do with members of Premier Sport Psychology -- including Dr. Justin Anderson, Dr. Jaimie Rubin and Carlos Coto -- that facilitates such conversations, emphasizing that they feel that mental health matters just as much to performance as physical health.
“It would be naive of us not to think that, within this room, with this many people, the statistics alone tell you that there will be a mental health issue along the way,” Falvey said. “So opening up the door to people being able to talk about that is really important and really removing the stigma associated in sports.”
“Things have changed a lot over time,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “These were things that weren’t discussed or talked about much in our game, probably outside of our game, too. But now, it’s a very normalized thing here and something that we actually encourage our guys to think about and talk about and express.”