MINNEAPOLIS -- The season of giving has nearly arrived -- and in that spirit, two of the most prominent departed clubhouse leaders in recent Twins history are continuing to give their time and efforts to their former team.
Nelson Cruz and Carlos Correa are no longer employed by the Twins (though the possibility of a reunion with Correa remains possible), but the pair of veterans are still leaving their mark on Minnesota through their planned offseason work with Luis Arraez and Jose Miranda, two important cornerstones of the seasons to come for the Twins. That effort could prove quite meaningful in determining the course of the Twins’ 2023 season.
At the end of the regular season, Correa asked Miranda -- more like insisted, really -- that the younger Puerto Rican work with him in Houston on defense and conditioning this offseason. Meanwhile, this figures to be the second straight offseason in which Cruz will host Arraez at his compound in the Dominican Republic to also work on conditioning. That work already paid off in a big way for Arraez, who rode that effort to his first batting title.
"One hundred -- not one hundred percent. One thousand percent,” Arraez said when asked if he’d go back to work with Cruz this offseason. “I'll go there again. I'll go there to the DR.”
Cruz took many of the Twins’ younger Latin American players under his wing during his two-plus seasons in Minnesota from 2019-21. Even after his departure from the organization in a trade to the Rays, he continued working with Arraez, who participated in Cruz’s aggressive offseason training program, dropping 11 pounds while strengthening his problematic knees during a high-intensity month of work.
The pair would work from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day, Arraez said, before going back to work at 7 p.m. -- and though Arraez did finish the season hobbled by a tight left hamstring, he marveled throughout the season at how much better his knees felt, giving him more power and ability to turn on the ball as he hit a career-high eight homers. He hopes to get more comfortable taking ground balls all around the infield this offseason.
“I want to say thanks to God for this year, because this year was special for me and for my knees,” Arraez said. “They finally didn't give me anything bad. I just ran hard. I'm just excited. I'm just excited for my knees. I can do a lot of things.”
Meanwhile, Correa originally asked Miranda to visit Houston for targeted work during the first week of December, but a conflict in Miranda’s schedule has the pair searching for another alignment in their calendars, Miranda said. The pair of Puerto Rican infielders grew close during the 2022 season, and even if Correa doesn’t end up returning to the Twins, he wanted to make sure to be able to help Miranda improve his conditioning and defense.
Correa said at the end of the season that he worked in offseasons past on such matters with his old Astros teammates and wanted to make sure that Miranda’s infield defense -- his primary pain point in a mostly solid rookie campaign -- would be better in 2023. It should also help that Miranda figures to see more time at third base, where he’s more comfortable than he is at first base, due to the recent trade of Gio Urshela to the Angels.
“I've been working on my agility, working on my range -- trying to get to more balls farther from me,” Miranda said. “Working, getting stronger, getting in better shape. That's the mentality.”
Such has been the camaraderie among those veterans and youngsters in the Twins’ clubhouse over the last few seasons -- and those signings could be the gifts that keep on giving for the developing players on the Minnesota roster.