A HALL OF FAME VISIT | Hall of Fame inductee Jack Morris joins Paul Molitor, Eduardo Escobar, Alan Busenitz and Dan Gladden on Twins Winter Caravan stop in Winona
Before he gets inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on July 29, hall of fame inductee Jack Morris made a stop in Winona on Wednesday with the Minnesota Twins Winter Caravan along with Twins manager and fellow-hall of famer Paul Molitor, players Eduardo Escobar and Alan Busenitz, and broadcaster and former player Dan Gladden.
Morris was voted into the Pro Baseball Hall of Fame by the Modern Era Committee this December. Morris had 254 career regular-season wins and seven postseason wins. His postseason success included a 10-inning shutout of the Atlanta Braves for the Twins in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, in which Gladden scored the game-winning run. Morris was also part of World Series-winning teams with Detroit in 1984 and Toronto in 1992.
“It’s still sinking in,” Morris said. “It was so overwhelming the first few days. Paul was down there and one of the first things I did was go up to the Twins boardroom at the winter meetings. And Paul invited me up 20 or 30 minutes after the announcement and we toasted.”
The caravan gives Morris, Molitor and Gladden another opportunity to remember their playing days as teammates and as foes. Morris played with Molitor in Toronto in 1993, and with Gladden with the Twins, of course, in the ’91 World Series season.
But it was the Twins’ other World Series that really got Gladden and Morris worked up at the press conference before the caravan stop at Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. Gladden’s Twins beat Morris’ Tigers in the American League Championship Series before moving on to beat the Cardinals in the World Series.
“That was kind of special,” Gladden said. “Jack only got to pitch one game because he got rocked in Game 2.”
IMPROVING PITCHING: The Twins have made some moves in free agency this offseason bringing in veteran relief pitchers Fernando Rodney, Addison Reed and Zach Duke.
“Bullpen is the trend in the free agent market this winter — the guys that have moved are relief pitchers and not necessarily closers,” Molitor said. “To add that trio that we did, it gives me more options for sure. And for young guys like Alan (Busenitz) and other young guys who made an impact, (Trevor) Hildenberger or (John) Curtiss or whoever you want to talk about, what we’ve done is deepen our options.”
Rumors are still swirling that the Twins really need to add a starting pitcher, with former Dodger Yu Darvish being on the top of the wishlist to solidify a Twins rotation that has been anything but solid. The Twins used 36 different pitchers last season and started 17.
“We were talking at the winter meetings about how we started 17 different pitchers last year and we were trying to see how many we could name,” Molitor said.
GAINING CONFIDENCE: After losing 103 games in 2016, the Twins rebounded with 85 wins and an American League Wild Card berth. They were the first team in Major League history to make the playoffs one season after losing over 100 games, a feat which earned Molitor Manager of the Year honors.
The manager said that the biggest factor in carrying 2017’s success into 2018 and building upon it is going to be the confidence the team built.
“When you head into a new year, you hope thatsome of the confidence carries over more than anything,” he said. “I think one of the areas that we grew was our understanding of inevitably you’re going to face ups and downs in 162 games. So you have to stay strong through those valleys.”
BRINGING IN MORNEAU: Former Twins first baseman Justin Morneau officially retired on Monday and Twins Chief Baseball Manager Derek Falvey announced the former MVP will join the front office as a special assistant. He joins a group of former players including Latroy Hawkins and Michael Cuddyer as recent former players to join the organization.
Molitor said he hadn’t had a chance to watch Morneau’s press conference amidst the Winter Caravan obligations, but that he likes what the former players add to the culture of the ball club.
“They are really valuable for me, when you talk about bringing in free agents or trades,” Molitor said. “These guys are fairly recently removed from playing and their crossover to different players and teams and coaches and managers — we’re getting really great intel on makeup of players more than talent, and we’re able to weed out players who might not be good fits.”