Lewis entering Twins season with rookie mindset

FORT MYERS, FLA. – Royce Lewis has accomplished a lot in 70 major league games, using his uncanny ability to hit grand slams, deliver clutch hits and inject energy into the Twins lineup.

His jersey is one of the most popular around the ballpark at Twins home games in Minnesota and Florida.

Ask Lewis, the 24-year-old third baseman, about his mindset during spring training, and he doesn't sound like a guy who feels like he has achieved anything yet.

"I haven't had a full season since 2019, let alone any full season in the big leagues," Lewis said. "This is definitely like my true rookie year in all honesty for me. That's how I'm going about it."

Lewis was one of the last players in the batting cages Friday, after a long set of fielding drills with infield prospect Brooks Lee and infield coach Tony Diaz. Last spring, he was still recovering from surgery to repair a knee ligament.

Another reason why Lewis feels like a rookie, in some ways, is he no longer is worrying about learning multiple positions. There are no experiments in center field. He hasn't spent any time at shortstop this camp.

"The last time I played third was my junior year of high school," Lewis said. "You could say I played third in the minor leagues, but that doesn't really count to me. You really have to have a full season or two there — not only at third, I'm talking about every position — to make a full change, feel comfortable at it.

"I think as an athlete you can make things happen, like when I went to play center, but even then to make that transition, I don't have experience with the wall, running into a wall, and that's probably where the injury occurred there."

Lewis started 48 games at third base last year, but spring training is giving him more time to learn the intricacies of the position. He'll frequently ask Carlos Correa for feedback after certain plays. Diaz, the infield coach, chats with him after each inning.

He laughs at one Grapefruit League moment when Washington outfielder Alex Call dropped a bunt single in a 2-1 count with two runners on base. One pitch earlier, Lewis told the coaching staff he wanted to move back, so he was in a better position for a double play.

"Even when there is not a play to be made, [Diaz] is always watching us," Lewis said, " 'Hey, I like your prep step that time, good job.' Or, 'Hey, get on it. You were late on this pitch, and we need you every pitch.' It's those helpful key reminders that will get me to the level I want to get to."

Lewis saw how pitchers wanted to attack him last year, and he responded by batting .309 with 15 homers and 52 RBI in 58 games.

Again, with a rookie mindset, he's not assuming his approach last season will guarantee results when the regular season starts in less than two weeks.

"For me, honestly, a lot of my work in spring has been fine-tuning what I control at the plate. My body, how I feel, where I need to fix things mechanically if I need to because every day, honestly, it's a game within a game. I'm fighting myself to try to find that position every day.

"It's not like basketball where I'm LeBron James, and I can shoot and dunk, and I'll figure it out, and I just show up, put a little work in, and I have it, and I'm the G.O.A.T. That's not the case."