MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Twins have presented new manager Paul Molitor with quite a challenge after his first week of the regular season.
The seven-game sample size couldn’t be much smaller, but the results couldn’t be much worse.
"We’re not pitching particularly well, we’re not fielding particularly well, we’re not swinging the bat particularly well and I’m probably not managing particularly well," Molitor said Monday after the Twins lost their home opener 12-3 to Kansas City, dropping their record to 1-6. "So all these things we need to try and do better."
Molitor’s first year on the job was jarred three days before the 2015 schedule even started, when starting pitcher Ervin Santana was suspended by Major League Baseball for 80 games for a positive test for a banned performance-enhancing substance. Then the Twins went to Detroit and were swept by a combined score of 22-1. Another expensive veteran in the rotation, Ricky Nolasco, was placed on the disabled list with elbow inflammation.
With a whopping 45 runs allowed and a mere 16 runs scored, the Twins are last in baseball in both categories.
"We had a lot of things happen the first week," general manager Terry Ryan said. "All heck broke loose."
The lineup will certainly produce at a better rate over the course of the season. Phil Hughes, Kyle Gibson and Tommy Milone have the ability to stabilize the starting staff until Nolasco and Santana return. But the bullpen is thin. Maybe the most concerning development, mirroring a recent downturn on defence the Twins have displayed in recent years, is all the misplays in the field in the first seven games.
"I don’t think we should panic right now," said right fielder Torii Hunter, who had a throwing error Monday. "But we definitely need to make some adjustments on things and get it right."
Molitor’s demeanour is as steady as managers go and he is taking over for Ron Gardenhire, whose 13 years on the job ended with the Twins slumping to an average of 96 losses the last four seasons. The 58-year-old Molitor isn’t under the same pressure.
"At what point do you change tactics? I think for the most part I try to be one of encouragement, try to keep things somewhat loose. Obviously when there’s specific things to be passed along you do that," he said. "I haven’t really seen a lot of things that in my mind are worthy of reprimand, if that’s the direction you’re trying to go."
Molitor, though, acknowledged after the home opener that he believed some of the players were already pressing in light of the ugly start.
"I realize how long a baseball season is," Molitor said, questioning the effectiveness of emotional outbursts. "I guess you could try to measure when it’s going to be appropriate and when it’s not, but I have a tendency to do better personally and stay more optimistic when I look at the big picture."