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‘It’s all about winning’ for new-look Twins

FORT MYERS, Fla. — When Rocco Baldelli made his way to Fort Myers earlier this month, the Twins manager found himself buzzing with excitement. More, he said, than in previous seasons — and that includes his first.

The reason?

“It comes down to the players,” Baldelli said.

Baldelli spoke to those players ahead of their first official full-squad workout on Monday at Hammond Stadium, delivering a message about winning and a team-first mentality for a new-look Twins team that he pledges will be more aggressive.

“The team here comes first. It’s about winning,” Baldelli said. “It’s about coming together as a group and accomplishing something as a group. Winning the ballgame comes above all else. … Every drill, every discussion we have, everything comes back to the success of the team.”

The front office went out this offseason and supplemented the rotation, bringing in Pablo López. It improved behind the plate, snagging Christian Vázquez on a three-year deal. Outfielders Joey Gallo and Michael A. Taylor and infielder Kyle Farmer joined the team in separate moves.

And, though it looked as if he was gone twice, the front office pulled off a shocking deal to bring back star shortstop Carlos Correa.

So another part of Baldelli’s message centered around just that: We’ve got the guys in the clubhouse we want. Now go prove it.

“We’ve got a good group of guys, and our goal is to win. There’s no other goal. There’s no other challenge that he’s set for us to try and drive us,” catcher Ryan Jeffers said. “It’s: ‘We’re going to win, and we want to win the World Series.’ We’ve got a group of guys. We’ve done everything that we need to do. Front office gave us the guys and talent we need. Let’s put it together and let’s go win.”

The players the Twins have brought in, particularly the new position players, Baldelli suspects, will give the Twins a different feel, look and ability out on the field.

The Twins have been a power-heavy team in the Baldelli era, even setting the league record for most home runs hit in a single season in 2019. They bunt sparingly and finished last in the majors last year in stolen bases.

“We’re going to be playing the game with some different pace,” he said. “The feel of Twins baseball is going to be a little different this year than it was in the past. Not that we were doing anything wrong in the past — I just think it’s going to be different and it makes it fun for us to be able to take part in those things.”

The Twins discussed playing an aggressive brand of baseball on day one, and have started their baserunning conversations, with former manager Paul Molitor helping lead those discussions.

The new bases, which are bigger, are expected to increase the number of steal attempts and that, coupled with a healthy group of players with what Baldelli dubbed “real quality athleticism,” will allow the Twins to put more pressure on their opponents.

“We’re going to play a very much more fast-paced, maybe action-packed, type of game,” Baldelli said.

How exactly that manifests itself, remains to be seen.

But as the Twins begin to put everything together this spring, looking to rebound from a season that saw them in first place for most of the year before watching their chances at postseason play slip away, there is plenty of optimism.

“Only focus is winning,” center fielder Byron Buxton said. “ Don’t care what shape, form, fashion, how it happens. It’s all about winning.”

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