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Correa enters Twins camp with a tweaked swing and soaring confidence

FORT MYERS, FLA. - The way Carlos Correa talks about the offseason changes he made with his swing, and how he thinks it'll benefit him, all sounds so matter-of-fact, like the way he said he would perform once the postseason started last year.

"I switched a couple of things with my lower body and my hands," Correa said. "I'm feeling good. I had a great workout [Thursday] and we're ready to go."

Correa wanted a more direct, compact swing, so his hands are starting at a lower position than they were before. In his batting stance, his weight is distributed more to his heels after playing through plantar fasciitis last season. He ditched a leg kick for a smaller toe tap.

It was his first normal offseason in a couple of years. No more free-agency drama. No more questions about the schedule because of a lockout. He started swinging earlier in the winter than usual and there is an aura of confidence surrounding him.

The swing adjustments, Correa said, are reminiscent of what he looked like in 2021, his last season with the Houston Astros. He was fifth in the American League Most Valuable Player voting that year.

"I haven't really seen him hit balls like that in a long time," Twins hitting coach David Popkins said after watching Correa take batting practice on one of the back fields Friday. "I don't think I've ever seen him clear the batter's eye. He hit one way over the batter's eye."

Correa tinkered with his swing throughout the 2023 season, which was the worst offensive year of his career. Popkins attributes much of the tinkering to the plantar fasciitis injury. It was painful to keep weight on his heels in his batting stance, so he leaned too much on his toes. He typically keeps a tall chest in his stance, but last year his chest was over the plate to compensate for the injury.

"It's not like he wasn't trying to use his heels," Popkins said. "Naturally, the body avoids pain, and it goes for self-preservation."

Correa worked out in Houston and often sent videos to Popkins about how his swing was progressing. When they worked together in the batting cage Thursday, Popkins said it was easier for Correa to drive the ball to the opposite field.

"They're excited. I'm excited," said Twins manager Rocco Baldelli, referring to Correa and Popkins. "We'll get him on the field and work him in, but he should be ready to go. He looks really good physically, and he's got that vibe right now that he's in a good place."

The Twins are confident a healthier version of Correa simply equals big offensive improvement. He was their best hitter in the postseason when he returned from his lone stint on the injured list.

"The playoffs showed him being a little healthier helps a lot," Popkins said. "A lot could have just been solved by that. Then also it helps to know 'I don't have to be 100% and I could still be the best player on the field.' That's what I think is a big takeaway. You can find a way to make it work and get it done even when you're not at your full clip, which makes him even more dangerous when he is."

It took a couple of months into the offseason before Correa felt pain-free in his left foot, but he called his winter "so chill" without the stress of free agency. He typically was at the gym by 7 a.m., took ground balls and hit, then spent the rest of the day with his wife and two children.

"That's all we want," Correa said. "Just to take care of our families and focus on baseball — just playing the game that we grew up loving. So, this was a great offseason for me."

Correa arrived at Twins camp Thursday, with his new swing, and he was armed with confidence about the team's potential. He raved about the lineup. He says the Twins have a young team, but they gained enough experience in last year's playoff run to "believe we can do it against any team."

A return to form for Correa, who signed a six-year, $200 million contract last year, would be a big step for a Twins team with increased expectations.

"He's building it," Popkins said. "He's creating it. You give that guy a healthy body and his confidence back from being healthy, I think some really good things are going to happen."