Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

news

MLB News

Inbox: Don't expect status quo with Molitor

Beat reporter Rhett Bollinger answers Twins fans' questions
MLB.com @RhettBollinger

It's been a busy offseason for the Twins so far, as they named Hall of Famer Paul Molitor their new manager and have hired three coaches to join him.

Hitting coach Tom Brunansky will return, while Gene Glynn will serve as third-base coach and Rudy Hernandez will act as an assistant hitting coach. Minnesota still has four more coaches to hire, including a pitching coach and a bench coach.

It's been a busy offseason for the Twins so far, as they named Hall of Famer Paul Molitor their new manager and have hired three coaches to join him.

Hitting coach Tom Brunansky will return, while Gene Glynn will serve as third-base coach and Rudy Hernandez will act as an assistant hitting coach. Minnesota still has four more coaches to hire, including a pitching coach and a bench coach.

So, while Twins general manager Terry Ryan is busy trying to assemble a coaching staff, he's also tasked with trying to improve the roster this offseason. Fixing the rotation is again the priority after Minnesota finished a fourth straight season with at least 92 losses.

The rest of the offseason should be interesting for the Twins, as plenty of questions remain. With that in mind, here's this week's Twins Inbox:

Submit a question to the Inbox

If Molitor was always the favorite to take over as manager once Ron Gardenhire was dismissed, why did the process take so long? And what kind of qualities should we expect to see from Molitor as manager?
-- John O., Minnetonka, Minn.

The search process took more than five weeks, as Gardenhire stepped aside on Sept. 29 and Molitor was officially introduced as manager on Nov. 4. The Twins simply did their due diligence, as Ryan led the search and conducted preliminary interviews with at least six candidates before ownership became involved for the final rounds of the interviews.

In the end, the top two candidates were Molitor and Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo. The Twins opted to go with Molitor because of his familiarity with the organization and his high baseball IQ as factors outweighing his managerial inexperience. A decision likely would've come earlier, but Minnesota wanted to wait until after the World Series to make an announcement.

So, while Molitor was a part of Gardenhire's coaching staff last year, he has a much different personality than his predecessor, and he's not simply a continuation of the status quo. Molitor is more willing to embrace advanced statistics, and he also helped institute more infield shifts last season. Molitor is also more reserved than Gardenhire, but he commands respect from players given his steady demeanor and his Hall of Fame pedigree.

There are some risks involved in hiring Molitor because he's never managed, but the decision to hire him made too much sense for the Twins to pass up, as the timing was finally right for Molitor to foray into managing his hometown club.

Video: Brian Dozier on Paul Molitor as new manager

What's the latest on the search for a pitching coach? Will it be someone from inside the organization or outside the organization?
-- David S., Mounds View, Minn.

Hiring a pitching coach is one of the top priorities for Molitor and Ryan. Molitor will need plenty of help, as he's never plotted out a plan for pitchers in Spring Training and also has never been tasked with making in-game pitching changes.

So it would make sense for the Twins to bring in a candidate with experience to help Molitor. If Minnesota believes experience is a key factor, the club seems more likely to go outside the organization for a pitching coach.

Former Twins pitchers Bert Blyleven, Jack Morris, Frank Viola and Eddie Guardado have all been mentioned as candidates, but none has served as a Major League pitching coach. Viola, however, has served as a Minor League pitching coach for the Mets the last four seasons. Blyleven and Morris are both very familiar with the team because of their roles as broadcasters, but neither has served as a coach.

Minnesota could decide to bring in an experienced pitching coach and then hire someone like Guardado to be bullpen coach. But it should be noted that Bobby Cuellar, who served as bullpen coach the last two seasons, could still be brought back and does have experience as a Major League pitching coach.

The Twins have been mostly mum on candidates, but I was told that they had at least 30 names on their initial list before starting their search for a pitching coach. So it could still be a while before a decision is made, but it should come before the Winter Meetings in December, as Minnesota wants its coaching staff to be finalized by then.

Do you see the Twins being active in free agency? What players could you see the Twins going after?
-- Edward K., Edina, Minn.

The Twins remain likely to sign a starting pitcher in free agency after their starters finished with the worst ERA in the Majors for a second straight season. But don't expect Minnesota to go after top-tier starters such as Jon Lester, James Shields or Max Scherzer.

The Twins, however, are much more likely to go after starters in the next tier, such as Brandon McCarthy or Jason Hammel. They also are expected to look at bounce-back candidates such as Justin Masterson or Brett Anderson.

Minnesota is also likely to target a corner outfielder. The Twins reportedly have contacted Torii Hunter's agent, but a reunion doesn't seem likely given Hunter's age and his desire to join a winning team. Other corner-outfield options they could look at include Chris Denorfia, Nori Aoki and Colby Rasmus.

Video: Justice on Molitor managing Twins' young core

Now that Molitor is manager, will that change Danny Santana's role next year? Will he play shortstop or center field?
-- Michael A., Blaine, Minn.

Santana played mostly out of position in 2014, as the natural shortstop started 57 games in center field and just 24 at short because of a glaring need in center. Santana filled in capably in center with his plus speed, but shortstop still remains his best position defensively.

Video: MIN@DET: Santana swipes second for 20th stolen base

Molitor is believed to want Santana back at shortstop next season, which would move Eduardo Escobar into a utility role. It also would open up a hole in center field until top prospect Byron Buxton is ready to take over. The Twins could decide to use both Aaron Hicks and Jordan Schafer in center field in the short term or add an outfielder who can play some center field.

After his impressive rookie season, Santana figures to be a big part of Minnesota's club moving forward. It'll be up to Molitor to put him in the best situation to succeed.

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Minnesota Twins, Byron Buxton, Eduardo Escobar, Danny Santana