MINNEAPOLIS - A new season with lofty expectations got started Monday as the Minnesota Twins held their first full-squad workout at Spring Training in Fort Myers, Fla.
There were plenty of familiar faces already at the CenturyLink Sports Complex as pitchers and catchers reported for camp last Wednesday. One new face and one big name was out on the field Monday under the bright Florida sunshine, taking batting practice and fielding grounders at third base: Newly-signed Josh Donaldson.
He signed the biggest free agent contract in Twins history last month, agreeing to a four-year, $92 million deal to come to Minnesota. He’ll be a regular at third base, while Miguel Sano, one of many sluggers in the Twins’ lineup this season, will assume duties at first base.
The move to sign Donaldson is a rarity in the Twins’ organization. But it’s not going to change who Donaldson is, or the approach the Twins take to the season.
“They see a teammate, they see a guy that they’re going to believe in and be pulling for all year long. He is part of our group now, we don’t look at guys who sign as free agents and get multi-year contracts in any kind of different light than anything else,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli told Fox 9’s Jim Rich. “We’re going to look to him to be a leader in a lot of different ways.”
Donaldson, entering his 10th major league season, is coming off one of his best years since winning the American League MVP award in 2015. The three-time All-Star hit .259 with the Atlanta Braves last season, hitting 37 home runs and slugging .521 on the way to 94 RBI.
That power is coming to a Twins’ lineup that made MLB history last year, hitting 307 homers. The Twins had eight players hit at least 22 homers last year, and five of those hit at least 31. Donaldson is the newest addition to the “Bomba Squad” that will put pressure on opposing pitchers every night. It’s a lineup that will include Max Kepler, Nelson Cruz, Eddie Rosario, Miguel Sano, Jorge Polanco and Mitch Garver. One early projection from ESPN’s Buster Olney has Donaldson hitting second in the lineup, behind Kepler.
“It goes back to the old phrase: You’re only as strong as your weakest link. The more strong links that we have in that lineup, it’s going to build us all,” Donaldson said. “The more competitive at bats each guy is going up there, making that starting pitcher, bullpen pitcher, whoever that may be that’s on the mound, work that much harder until whenever you leave the box, like you’ve taken something out of them to where I take something out of them, Nelson takes something out of them, whoever it is bang, bang, bang. Now the floodgates start to open up. When that transpires, that’s fun to be a part of and I think we have the opportunity to do that.”
He also played 148 of his 155 games last season at third base, finishing with a .969 fielding percentage. In 417 total chances, he had just 13 errors, turned 38 double plays and had 304 assists.
Coming off winning 101 games, taking the AL Central title for the first time since 2010 and Baldelli winning the AL Manager of the Year in his first season, expectations are sky high for the Twins in 2020. The hope is Donaldson is one more piece to take the Twins to the playoffs, and hopefully in their eyes, the World Series.
The Twins will hold workouts all week until their first Spring Training game against the University of Minnesota Friday night. They also face the Pittsburgh Pirates Saturday afternoon.