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Twins focus Spring Training on individual needs

Club looks to utilize smaller groups for instruction, highlight off-the-field coaching
February 13, 2019

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Twins' front office may not have added as many pitchers as fans have clamored for this offseason, but behind the scenes, chief baseball officer Derek Falvey and general manager Thad Levine are wrapping up what Falvey believes to be their best offseason yet.Falvey and Levine

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Twins' front office may not have added as many pitchers as fans have clamored for this offseason, but behind the scenes, chief baseball officer Derek Falvey and general manager Thad Levine are wrapping up what Falvey believes to be their best offseason yet.
Falvey and Levine worked with director of Minor League operations Jeremy Zoll to rethink offseason training camps, tightening them up and focusing them more on instruction based on players' specific needs. They elevated a new Major League strength and conditioning coordinator in Ian Kadish, added dietitian Rasa Troup to oversee team nutrition on a full-time basis and performance and significantly expanded their medical staff.
The driving force behind these changes is that the Twins are overhauling what Falvey calls the "overall performance space": everything outside the strictly "baseball" side of the game. Not only do the Twins hope to offer more resources to players in coaching, strength, nutrition and other areas, but they also hope to utilize those resources in a more individualized, targeted manner.:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::
What does that look like in practice? For starters, expect a very different look at Twins Spring Training.
"We've adhered to a pretty similar process as to how Spring Training runs industry-wide for a long time, and this is a real opportunity to revamp that," Falvey said.
In general terms, team-wide workouts will largely be replaced by smaller subsets of players undergoing targeted drills and instruction, with more efficient use of practice time becoming a focus. That was also the goal of the new training camps that the Twins implemented this past offseason, when they set up several skill-oriented instructional camps, including strength camps, catchers' receiving camps and more defined pitcher development camps, including a velocity camp, a changeup camp and a command camp.
According to Falvey, the overhaul of Spring Training was led by new manager Rocco Baldelli, who shared his ideas during his interview process for the managerial role, and bench coach Derek Shelton.
"You'll see different types of individualized work being done [this spring], and the goal is to get guys on their feet, deliberately practice, do good work and then get them off their feet," Falvey said. "There shouldn't be a lot of dead time or down time on the fields, which is sometimes what happens in Spring Training."
For some prospects and non-roster invitees that won't be expected to make the Major League roster, this could mean that their spring program is messaged towards specifically developing, say, some elements of their offense or defense, as opposed to throwing them into every aspect of Major League camp.
Predicting the Twins' Opening Day roster
The Twins have increased their staffing level at camp in Fort Myers in the last few years, bringing in special assistants, instructors, former players, Minor League staffers and others to support the operation. That also helps the younger players, who get more continuity in their coaching from mentors that have more familiarity with them.
"I think there's a benefit to giving guys specific, individualized goals and trying to get them better in that area or that space that we feel is a high-impact area for their long-term development," Falvey said.
Moving forward beyond the spring, one piece of the greater puzzle is strength and conditioning, a field in which Kadish has a track record of individually working with Twins players. Last season, as the team's Minor League strength and conditioning coordinator, he was the point of contact for Miguel Sanó's conditioning regimen when the third baseman was sent to work at the Twins' complex in Fort Myers. He also worked closely with Jorge Polanco during the shortstop's 80-game suspension.
Troup worked with the Twins in a consulting role last season, and the former Olympic athlete worked closely with team chef Kyle McCleary to enhance education among the players about nutrition and performance. As a full-time employee, they hope she can install that philosophy throughout the Minor League organization.
The key, Falvey said, has been constant communication among the staff and the development of strong internal organization systems to make sure that all of the new moving pieces are working in concert towards each player's specific goals.
When Falvey and Levine were first hired after the 2016 season, they spent the first year largely evaluating the state of the organization and looking for opportunities to take steps forward in training and developing players. Now is when many of the changes that they've identified start coming into play.

Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.