‘It’s about winning’: Twins start Spring Training in Fort Myers with high expectations

The Minnesota Twins took the field at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Fla., on Monday for their first full-team workout of the 2023 season.

But before they swung a bat, threw a pitch or took a ground ball, manager Rocco Baldelli addressed the team for about an hour as they laid out goals and expectations for the season ahead. His main message? Everything that they do this season over the course of 162 games, and hopefully more to follow, is about the team and winning.

Baldelli is entering his fifth season with the Twins. He’s seen the highs of division titles his first two seasons. He’s seen the lows of missing the playoffs altogether the last two years. He said at a luncheon before TwinsFest in January they’re not hiding from it, last season’s 78-84 mark didn’t meet the standard. He said the same on Monday from Florida.

"Team here comes first, it’s about winning. It’s about coming together as a group and accomplishing something as a group. Winning the ballgame comes above all else," Baldelli said.

That starts with starting pitching. They have Sonny Gray, Tyler Mahle, Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan back from last year’s rotation. Kenta Maeda is back healthy from Tommy John surgery, and the Twins traded fan-favorite Luis Arraez to acquire Pablo Lopez from the Miami Marlins.

They have the depth in the starting rotation, now it’s about performing. Ryan led the Twins with 13 wins last season. Gray went 8-5 in 24 starts, and led Twins’ starters with a 3.08 earned run average. He’s played for playoff contenders with the New York Yankees and Cincinnati Reds, now he wants to do the same with the Twins.

"Winning is the only thing that matters. I truly, I get goosebumps talking about it because that’s something that I personally believe wholeheartedly. I’ve been lucky, I’ve been on a lot of winning teams throughout my career, throughout my life," Gray said Monday. "It’s truly the only thing that I care about at this point in my career is going out and winning."

The Twins also made other significant moves in the offseason. They brought back shortstop Carlos Correa on a six-year deal, after agreements with the Giants and Mets fell through over medical concerns. They added Joey Gallo to the outfield, and Christian Vazquez at catcher.

It’s only been one day in Florida, but there’s already a sense that this Twins’ team can do something special in 2023.

"Everybody is open to change and everybody is open to just continuing to improve and get better. Willing to do whatever it takes to be the last team standing. When you’re around people like that, good things are going to happen," Correa said. "We have the talent to match that, and hopefully it all clicks and we can be good for a long time."