Molitor clear on desire to return to Twins next season
MINNEAPOLIS—Paul Molitor didn't hesitate Wednesday when asked whether he wanted to return for a fifth season as Twins manager in 2019.
"Yeah, I don't have any doubts about that," he said.
Named American League Manager of the Year after an 85-win season and a wild-card berth last season, Molitor's three-year extension runs through 2020 at an estimated average of $1.5 million per season. After failing to claw back into contention by the trade deadline in late July, the Twins shipped off a half-dozen of their top contributors, including two-time defending club MVP Brian Dozier, doubles machine Eduardo Escobar and 41-year-old closer Fernando Rodney.
Since the start of Molitor's tenure, just three AL clubs (Orioles, Tigers and White Sox) entered Wednesday with fewer wins than the Twins, who went 299-343 in that span. The Twins had posted a cumulative run differential of minus-209 under Molitor, including minus-65 this year.
Their only year in positive territory was 2017, when they rallied late to finish at plus-27.
According to their expected record, the Twins have been three wins behind their Pythagorean pace under Molitor since 2015, according to Baseball-Reference.com. They were break-even this year amid a steady stream of injuries and other setbacks.
"Don't ever want to sound like we're making excuses," Molitor said. "Every team has to deal with certain things along the way. We had some things that went not according to plan and we had to make adjustments. Sometimes we did well and sometimes not so well. I think our guys learned; they're continuing to learn."
The Twins have tied a Minnesota franchise mark with 15 walk-off losses, one short of a major league record last reached by the 1975 Houston Astros.
"Hopefully we learned by some of the things we had to endure this year, including the walk-offs," Molitor said. "Those put a big dent in your season and what you're trying to do."
Detroit Tigers rookie utility man Niko Goodrum, a former second-round pick who spent his first eight professional seasons in the Twins organization, caused a replay review with his barrel-roll slide into Logan Forsythe that broke up a potential double play on Tuesday.
Hunter Wendelstedt explained to Molitor that the slide was "bona fide" and within the rules despite Goodrum's awkward approach. Forsythe also didn't attempt a throw, Molitor was told, which caused the initial call of a simple forceout to stand.
Goodrum, who entered Wednesday with 112 starts and 470 plate appearances for manager Ron Gardenhire, has killed Twins pitching all year. In 55 trips this year against his former team, Goodrum entered with a combined on-base/slugging percentage of 1.133.
He had five home runs and 12 runs batted in against the Twins through 14 games. Against the rest of the majors, he had 11 homers in 378 at-bats.
"He's had a ton of hits against us," Molitor said. "I didn't know he was so vengeful."
J.P. Martinez, the Twins' assistant minor-league pitching coordinator, is with the big-league club for this three-game series with the Tigers. Pete Maki, the former Duke pitching coaching hired as minor-league pitching coordinator last offseason, will follow him into town for the four-game, season-ending series with the Chicago White Sox.
Mitch Garver cleared the concussion protocol and is available to hit off the bench the rest of the way.
Miguel Sano (left knee) is still dealing with symptoms but remains hopeful of getting into at least one game before the season ends.
Former Twins catcher and bench coach Terry Steinbach stopped by the see his old friends on both sides.
It's unlikely right-hander Aaron Slegers will get into a game after not pitching in the majors since July 10.