For the first time in the 46 seasons the franchise has been in Minnesota, the team is taking a committee approach to coaching the hitters, even though first-year big-league coach Joe Vavra is the lone hitting coach in title.
Former batting champion Tony Oliva, the team's two-time hitting coach, has been asked to dress for home games and help out with the hitters at the Dome. The most recent hitting coach, Scott Ullger, who remains on the staff as the third base coach, also keeps his hand in it. And minor league instructor Paul Molitor, the Hall of Famer with 3,000 hits, also is invited to participate when he's around -- as he was over the weekend.
"We just didn't get it done last year, so I thought some change was in order," general manager Terry Ryan said.
The multi-headed approach is in part a response to last year's last-place rank in the American League in scoring runs and in part because the team has a different mix of hitters this year, including veteran newcomers Tony Batista, Luis Castillo and Rondell White.
The results seem to be paying off already.
The Twins batted .225 and scored 4.5 runs per game during their season-opening road trip to Toronto and Cleveland -- without Oliva or Molitor around.
Through the first six games of the ensuing homestand? They're hitting .332 with 5.8 runs per game against Oakland and the Yankees -- and have turned around a 1-5 start with a 5-1 homestand so far.
"Everybody here is a professional," Vavra said. "And I told Scotty, 'If something you did clicked with somebody, and we need to get that guy right, he's coming to you.' ... Whatever makes the guy go.
"My philosophy has always been that you can accomplish great things if you don't worry about who gets credit."
NOTES, QUOTES:OF Ruben Sierra, the 40-year-old switch hitter signed over the winter to be the Twins' pinch-hit specialist, joins the team for Tuesday's series opener against the Angels after spending the past two weeks staying behind in Fort Myers, Fla., completing his recovery and rehabilitation from a pulled quadriceps. The Twins made room on the roster Sunday night when they optioned rookie OF Jason Kubel to Triple-A Rochester.Why are the Twins 5-1 since returning home last week as opposed to their 1-5 start on their season-opening road trip through Toronto and Cleveland? In addition to hitting better and scoring 1.3 more runs per game, they've dropped their team ERA from 5.88 over the first six games to 4.67 over the past six.DH Rondell White, the slumping cleanup hitter (.085), doesn't have great numbers in his career against the Angels (.263 last year, .253 career), but he's 8-for-20 (.400) with two homers lifetime against Los Angeles RHP Kelvim Escobar, who opens a three-game series Tuesday night against the Twins.Twins starting pitchers, who led the AL with a 3.71 rotation ERA and returned their top four members, are just 5-6 with a 6.21 ERA through 12 games. "It's not something we're concerned about," general manager Terry Ryan said. If there's a silver lining to the slow start, it might be that young RHP Scott Baker, who misses rookie status by a mere three innings, is the lone newcomer to the mix, and he's the best performer so far twice through the rotation: 1-1, 3.18.Already off to a 5-1 start on their nine-game homestand, the Twins get a potential boost in the pitching matchup for the series opener against the Angels on Tuesday, when RHP Carlos Silva starts for them. Silva is 4-0, 2.86 lifetime against the Angels.The Twins enter play this week with the best bullpen ERA in the league, at 3.09. Their opponent the next three days, the Los Angeles Angels, are second at 3.25. How big does that figure to be? The past six meetings between the teams were all decided by one run.
Here is the latest edition of Twins' Inside Pitch. In it, the Twins welcome Ruben Sierra to the fold, the bullpen is the best in the bigs, the Angels may be just what Rondell White needs to break out, and so much more.
An inside look at the week ahead.
Sierra will make his Twins debut this week.