Even-keeled Molitor turning page on 2016

March 6th, 2017

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Hall of Famer and Twins manager Paul Molitor has worked in Major League Baseball since 1978 and called last season the worst of his career.

It didn't help that the Twins lost a Major League-leading 103 games. Molitor was hoping to build off of the previous season, when Minnesota surprised everybody by winning 83 games and finding themselves in the Wild Card race until the last week of the season. But things went south last year.

The Twins finished last in the American League in pitching and defense and ranked 21st in offense. Molitor admitted last season left a bad taste in his mouth, but didn't lose his temper in front of his players.

"You can look at analytics and try to explain 103 losses, but it [was] pretty simple for me; we were the worst in pitching, we were worst in protecting the baseball and catching it," Molitor said to the podcast, "Newsmakers." "Pitching and defense -- we heard it for decades. If you are bottoming out in those areas, it's not going to bode well in the wins column."

Molitor plans to turn the page, but doesn't intend to forget what happened in 2016. He said there is going to be a lot more competition for jobs this year.

"I'm not assuming anything for anybody," Molitor said. "Part of my message was: We don't have a lot of people in the position to be on scholarship anymore. We have to go out there and earn the at-bats, earn the innings and hope for the competition to help us along with more experience."

Molitor hopes to have a healthy rotation, which starts with , who had a respectable 3.38 ERA. Right-hander Phil Hughes missed most of last season because of a knee injury and thoracic outlet syndrome. He is expected to be one of the workhorses this season. This is the same Phil Hughes who 16 games for Minnesota two years ago.

"He gives you a chance to win more times than not," Molitor said. "We are hoping he could step back to where he was a couple of years ago."

The offense is led by second baseman , who was often mentioned in trade rumors. Molitor said Dozier and his wife had a tough offseason because of the rumors. But the Twins were in need of pitching.

"I was open-minded," Molitor said. "We need pitching. [Dozier] was a big chip out there and we couldn't get what we thought his value dictated. So he is back and I told him, 'As a manager, it's good for me.' What he has done in his development, particularly the last three years, those numbers don't lie. He plays good defense, he has turned out to be one of our leaders on our team and certainly a catalyst."

Dozier needs help on offense. Time will tell if outfielder Bryan Buxton has figured things out at the plate. After a slow start, Buxton hit .287 with nine home runs and 22 RBIs during the last month of the season.

"I'm optimistic about him," Molitor said about Buxton. "… He is very humble. He absorbs information. For the first time since I saw him in the Minor Leagues, [Buxton] started having fun playing the game again last September. This spring, the signs are, that is going to continue."

Molitor, a native of Minnesota, plans to have a positive attitude in 2017. He badly wants to win a World Series ring in his hometown.

"It's important to [have a positive attitude]," Molitor said. "Players are going to see how you handle it. I try to be a steady person. Inside, I burn. I burn as good as anybody. I think there's something to being the guy that can handle the ups and downs. The positivity, your players are going to reflect it, hopefully."