I’ve Got to Admit it’s Getting Better! 20 Mar 14
I’ve Got to Admit it’s Getting Better!
Story and Photos by Gordy Jones

Trevor Plouffe, who has been working extra hard, tagged out Orioles base runner Nolan Reimold before he ran out of the baseline.

I went to spring training this year with absolutely no expectations of Twins greatness this year. The best part of being a columnist rather than a reporter: the ability to be biased. I am a ”homer.” I admit it. I always give the team and its players the benefit of the doubt, and hope for the best. The only problem with that: sometimes I think with my heart instead of my brain, and my prognostications made me feel a bit foolish halfway into each of the last three seasons. This year I am looking at the team more as a realist…but still with a positive spin. 

Some of the guys have been here a couple years now, and I see a chemistry building –chemistry that is necessary to play well as a team. Late last season, the clubhouse seemed quiet almost tense. I mentioned that to Trevor Plouffe, and he said, “I don’t know if it was quieter; it’s just not fun losing all of those games. You wouldn’t want us in there joking around when we’re losing all of the games. We’re all professionals here, and we want to win.” I asked Trevor if he noticed a difference in the

Jason Kubel has always had a great swing!

clubhouse so far in 2014. He said, “I think so. These guys have been together for another year, and whenever that happens you have a chance to bond a little more. We all like each other, we like spending time with each other, and when that happens you can get out there and work, and continue to work longer because you’re enjoying it. That’s the vibe this year. We are a team that needs to continue to work and improve, and I think this season we’ll be able to do that. I think we also addressed some areas of need – namely our starting pitching. Our offense also was

With Joe Mauer moving over to play first, he should be in the lineup nearly everyday.

addressed with Mauer moving to first base; he’ll be in the lineup more often this year, and that’s going to help us to be more consistent. As much as the pitching struggled last year, the offense wasn’t great either. I think we addressed both areas, so we feel pretty good going into the season.” And how does Trevor feel going in at third? “I love it! I’m at spring training every day working hard with Paul Molitor, Jason Bartlett, and Brian Dozier, just getting better. We are working on things we need to work on, but it’s all becoming more and more fluid and natural to me. I feel good!”

Jason Kubel has always been a solid hitter, and one heck of a nice guy. On being back in the Twins organization, Jason told me: “It feels great! It doesn’t feel like I was gone for two years. There are some new guys here, and I ‘m having a good time getting to know them. There are only a few guys still here that I played with. But we have a good group of guys and we’re having fun. I’m feeling better at the plate each day, and if I keep that up until the season starts, I’ll be in good shape. It’s good to be back!”
One person Jason never played with, but doesn’t need to get acquainted with, is his wife’s brother, relief pitcher Michael Tonkin. They are currently rooming with each other, as Jason’s wife, Blake, is at home in California with the kids. The talk is that Michael is a strong candidate to make the team. It will be fantastic if they both do.
I went over to the East Coast of Florida to see the Washington Nationals the other day, and to see some familiar faces.
Jamie Carroll greeted me, and I thought the 40-year-old infielder must still be sipping from the Fountain of Youth. He is as youthful and wiry as ever. 

Denard Span is a fan favorite for the “Nats”.

A smiling Denard Span gave me a hug, and we talked about the past and present. He no longer does an annual charity bowling tournament, but instead does a weekly outing with children of single mothers. It has more of a personal touch, and gives him the ability to positively influence more children’s lives.   

A couple of former Twins catchers are with the “Nats,” too. Wilson Ramos is catcher, and Matthew Lecroy is now the Nationals’ bullpen coach; he appears to be as happy and good-natured as ever. He claps his hands, makes a lot of jokes, and keeps the boys in the pen alert and in the game…and laughing, too. The first thing he said to me was a proud: ” Gordy! I have five kids now! Holly had twins, and so did Cuddyer, and so did Joe Mauer. It’s something in the Minnesota water.” His relievers thought I was his dad or older brother. Matt grinned and said, “You know, Gordy, that’s quite a compliment. I’m a pretty good looking guy.”  

Former Twins catcher, Matt Lecroy, is a natural as a bullpen coach.