The Minnesota Twins Winter Caravan was in Sioux Falls on Monday night to meet with loyal fans at the Elmen Center (Augustana College). This annual event brought in Twins second baseman Brian Dozier, Twins relief pitcher Brian Duensing, former Twins Pitcher Jack Morris, and long-time Twins television broadcaster Dick Bremer.
Jack Morris is most known for his 1991 season, his only season with the team, when he won 18 regular season games. He also added on four post-season wins, including a legendary performance in game seven of the 1991 World Series.
One big change made by the Twins this off-season was the firing of manager Rod Gardenhire, and hiring of new Twins manager Paul Molitor. Morris now works for the league and is a broadcaster as well. He thinks the manager change could pay off big for the Twins in the long run. Morris said he’s been friends with Gardenhire for a long-time, but knows this change will be good.
“Another guy that I know very well, is taking his job. Paul Molitor will be a different kind of manager, probably a little more serious, at least to begin with,” said Morris. “He’s very into detail; he understands the game, watches all the small things very closely.”
Morris said he’s enjoying his role of being a team spectator, because it gives him a chance to see things from a different angle. He said over the past few years he’s been able to see new leadership emerge within the franchise. Morris said Brian Dozier is one of those guys. He said guys like Dozier make the Twins better than what they might appear when looking at the teams season record.
“I haven’t even told Dozier this yet, but I do work for MLB.com and I get to see the post-season every single year,” said Morris. “I truly believe in my heart of hearts that the Twins offense is better than the American League champion Kansas City offense.”
Morris said the teams pitching on the other hand, still needs work.
Twins second baseman Dozier agreed with Morris in regards to excitement in Molitor taking over as the teams’ manager. Dozier said he’s also excited about the addition of former Twins centerfielder Torii Hunter, who will now play right-field for the team.
“He’s a top-notch guy, I know the fans in Minneapolis love him,” said Dozier. “I said this earlier at an earlier stop we had, he’s approaching 20-years in the major leagues, and you’d think people would start declining at that age, but he’s got a lot of bullets left.”
He said he’s confident that what Hunter did last year, could correlate over to this season.
“I can see the numbers he put up last year at the age of 38,39, whatever he is, said Dozier. “He’s going to be our everyday right fielder, hitting in the middle of the line-up. Heck of a signing for us.”
The Twins also acquired a new pitcher during the off-season in Ervin Santana, who most believe will make an immediate impact to the teams success. Relief pitcher Brian Duensing said Santana will take some of the pressure off the Twins bullpen as a whole.
“If the bullpen’s not getting used, then usually things are going well, and that’s what we want,” said Duensing. “If we’re under worked, then things are looking up. But we’re out here to pitch and hopefully we’ll get the opportunity to do our job well.”
Duensing said he’s also been impressed with another young pitcher on the Twins roster, South Dakota State University graduate Caleb Thielbar. Duensing said Thielbar has been a fun kid to watch, since his debut in May of 2013.
“He’s got a kind of funky delivery, especially from a lefty, he’s kind of a double threat guy,” said Duensing. “He works hard, always asking questions, always looking at film. He goes out there and basically says, here it is and see if you can hit it.”
Duensing believes that Thielbar will get better as he gains more experience in games.
All four of the Twins speakers (Dozier, Duensing, Morris and Bremer) spent a good chunk of time talking to the fans in attendance on Monday evening. Afterwards, fans were given the chance to shake hands, take photos and get autographs.
Second baseman Dozier said the Twins fans have been great over these past few years, and he hopes the team can turn things around to give fans more to cheer about this season.
“Its been a tough three or four years, and I’m not going to say that every team goes through that, but there is some growing pains with young guys coming to the club,” said Dozier. “It’s time to get back on the winning track, to be that contender year in and year out. With the additions that we’ve made, I put us up against anybody.”
Dozier said he enjoys doing the Twins Winter Caravan because it’s a way to meet fans he’d normally not get to meet.
“It’s awesome, it really is. Everyday getting to see fans outside of Minneapolis, outside the cities, it’s awesome. I think there’s over 700 people here tonight in Sioux Falls,” said Dozier. “I think what’s even more special is we’ve had a rough couple of years, and people are still excited about the game, excited about this upcoming season.”
Dozier summed up the twins fan base in one word, “phenomenal!”
MLB pitchers and catchers report on February 22, and then the rest of the squad reports on February 27. The Twins will spend most of March in Florida for Spring Training.
This years season opener game is April 6 against the Tigers in Detroit. They’ll host their home opener a week later on April 13 against the 2014 American League Champion Kansas City Royals.