Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The revamped coaching staff

Terry Steinbach (background) has worked with catchers
in spring training for several years, but now will be a
full-time coach.
There will be a native of southern Minnesota on the 2013 Minnesota Twins coaching staff — just not the one generally expected.

Gene Glynn of Waseca will remain the manager at Triple A Rochester. Terry Steinbach of New Ulm will be the bench coach/catching instructor.

The Twins announced the new staff Monday, and the rest of it shaped up more or less as projected once three of the incumbents were cut loose:

  • Rick Anderson remains the pitching coach;
  • Scott Ullger (bench coach), earlier designated the outfield instructor, will be the first base coach during games and presumably remains the manager-designate when Ron Gardenhire is ejected;
  • Joe Vavra (hitting coach), earlier designated the infield instructor, will be the third base coach;
  • Tom Brunansky (Triple A coach) will be the hitting coach; and
  • Bobby Cuellar (Triple A coach) will be the bullpen coach.

When the Twins started this process the day after their season ended, I suggested two specific areas that I thought could use shoring up:  Somebody fluent in Spanish, and an experienced infielder to work on infield defense. Terry Ryan, the Twins general manager, also cited the language aspect, mentioning that two in-house shortstop options (Pedro Florimon and Eduardo Escobar) have relatively little English.

Vavra was a middle infielder in his playing days, and presumably he fits the latter bill.

Cuellar is described as fluent in Spanish. That's a step up from the previous staff, but I think it's fair to question how useful a Spanish-speaking bullpen coach will be in communicating with a couple of middle infielders. Florimon and Escobar aren't in Cuellar's area of responsibility, and Cuellar won't be in the dugout during games.

I also think it's fair to question Ullger as the successor to Jerry White as outfield/baserunning instructor; White was a speed-oriented outfielder in his playing days and Ullger wasn't. Ullger's presence on the staff strikes me as more about giving Gardenhire a No. 2 he's comfortable with than about specifically improving his assigned area.

What the Twins didn't do may be as significant as what they did do: They essentially made their coaching changes from within. Cuellar has been in the Twins organization for years (and has had major-league coaching gigs in Seattle, Texas and Pittsburgh as well); Brunansky has been in the Twins system for three seasons, working his way up the minor league ladder as a coach; and Steinbach has been a spring-training staple in Fort Myers since ending his playing career.

Staying in-house rather than going outside may not please those convinced that the "Twins Way" is outdated, but it fits Ryan's history.

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