MINNEAPOLIS - Optimism was as high as it’s been in a long time both at the Fillmore Minneapolis and at Target Field this past weekend as the Minnesota Twins hosted TwinsFest.
Most of the current team, manager Rocco Baldelli, Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey and President Dave St. Peter were all on-hand as the talk was of excitement for baseball season. St. Peter talked Friday of getting back to having two million fans at Target Field, new scoreboard improvements and a new baseball structure that will be lit up in right field on summer nights.
TwinsFest served as the official reminder that Spring Training and Florida are near.
"Every year no matter what you do in the offseason, when you get to TwinsFest and most of your players are here, you get to see them, get to give them a hug, you start talking. You get down the clubhouse and you feel the same kind of early day activity that you would feel in the middle of June, it feels like you’re ready to go to Florida at that point," Falvey said. "It’s just a really exciting time for our players and staff."
We learned Joe Mauer will be the 38th member of the Twins’ Hall of Fame in August. The team feels its offseason moves, led by bringing back Carlos Correa, will put them back in contention again for the American League Central Division title. They also added high-end starting pitching, getting Pablo Lopez, though it came at a price with trading batting champion and fan-favorite Luis Arraez. They signed Joey Gallo, Michael Taylor, Christian Vazquez and will get Kenta Maeda back healthy.
Baldelli views the offseason moves as a home run.
"It’s everything that I think we could’ve hoped for in an offseason. When you’re talking about free agent signings, when you’re talking about trades, making it all fit. Bringing Carlos back, it’s hard to not look at that as absolutely a piece that kind of brings everything together," Baldelli said. "Being able to really fatten up that rotation, bring in an extra really good arm in Pablo Lopez, that’s a key move for us. Hopefully those benefits will be reaped over the course of a long season, knowing we have a lot of guys that we can turn to."
Baldelli has seen the highs and lows of a baseball season as he enters year five with the Twins. His tenure started with 101 wins and a division title. Year two was 36 wins and another AL Central title in a COVID-19 shortened season.
Now, they’re facing some adversity. They’ve missed the playoffs altogether two straight seasons, going 73-89 in 2021 and 78-84 last year. They haven’t stayed healthy, they’ve been inconsistent and as Baldelli said last Friday, the last two years haven’t met the standard.
The goal is to change that this year, perhaps even get the franchise’s first playoff series win since 2002.
"We like our team in every way. We’re coming off two consecutive seasons that aren’t up to our standards. We don’t look away from that, we go out there and try to improve our team and improve what we do," Baldelli said. "We’ll attack it head-on and go out there and try to win as many games as we can and fight."