End of Season Notebook: Falvey and Levine on Sano, Managerial Search, Mauer & More

Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Twins front office bosses Derek Falvey and Thad Levine held an end-of-season conference call on Tuesday, with the topics of discussion ranging from general year-end housecleaning to the curious case of Miguel Sano’s weekend, and everything in between.

Here are some bullet points:

They view the Sano thing as an accident, and nothing more

Falvey said based on everything they saw and heard after gathering facts that it was truly an accident, and they’re doing whatever they can to help Sano and the officer make sure this is resolved properly.

“Miguel has taken steps to help throughout this process,” Falvey said. “He has certainly complied with anything that has been asked of the police and otherwise.”

Sano is meeting with team docs on Monday

The plan was for Sano to not do anything for the first 7-to-10 days of the offseason, and he’ll see team docs at the club’s Dominican Academy on Monday to gauge his progress as he recovers from the knee issue that sidelined him at the end of the season.

“We’re going to have initial touch point here with our medial and strength and conditioning staffs to assess what physical state he’s in right now we can start appropriately ramping him back up,” Levine said. “We’re going to be overly sensitive to making sure he heals, but once we are confident (of that), the plan is to have very consistent touch points, both by phone and quite frankly face-to-face, where he will be spending some time in the Dominican Republic and some time in Fort Myers.”

Levine added that there’s a fair chance Sano could play some winter ball to make up for lost repetitions as well.

“We are going to know a lot more about what the next step is based upon the assessment that will be made at the beginning of next week, when we find out what his current state,” Levine said. “But the goal is to get him back up to baseball shape as quickly as possible, then put him in responsibly a position where he can start track towards playing some winter ball, balancing that with extended periods of time in Fort Myers getting prepared for the 2019 season.”

Falvey said that Sano’s injury was more continued soreness than anything else, as testing and imaging revealed no structural damage.

Sep 4, 2018; Houston, TX, USA; Minnesota Twins designated hitter Miguel Sano (22) is evaluated by medical personnel as manager Paul Molitor (4) looks on during the second inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The team doesn’t have a target weight for Sano in terms of a number, Falvey added, but the expectation is that he’ll naturally lose weight based on the plan set for him this offseason.

“We were never really married to an exact something you would read off a scale but more the eyeball test of his agility and his flexibility and his athleticism,” Levine said. “I think when he came back up, while the bat didn’t necessarily take off like he hoped it would, I do think defensively he played a very good third base. We know what looked like. He knows what that felt like as we want to get  back to that space at least if not better.”

Byron Buxton is pain-free, but it’s unclear if he’s 100 percent yet

“With our feedback from our trainers and otherwise at the end of the year, he’s feeling great,” Falvey said. “We feel like he’s in a good place going forward from a health standpoint.”

At least from the point of view of Falvey, everything seems to be in a good place between Buxton and the team after what appeared to be a contentious decision not to bring him up after Rochester’s season ended.

“For Byron this has always been — and has been consistently the focus at the end of the season — to make sure there’s full health before we move anything forward in his programming. We’ve had some contact with his agents and otherwise about some ideas around offseason programming given location, where he’s going to be, travel, things like that.

May 26, 2018; Seattle, WA, USA; Minnesota Twins center fielder Byron Buxton (25) walks to the dugout after being injured while in pursuit of a fly ball against the Seattle Mariners during the sixth inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

“We’re still of the mind that we want to focus first and foremost on the things he needs to do from a physical standpoint to get him in a good position and allow for him to continue to progress with some offensive adjustments that I know he wants to make. Having talked to Byron a couple weeks back now about that and what he’s looking to do, I think he feels good about where he’s at from a plan standpoint offensively.

Oddly enough, getting the rest of the coaching staff — including a manager — in place will play a role as well, Falvey said.

“We fully expect once we have a full coaching staff and otherwise in order here in the short-term to make sure he’s in contact with each of those members moving forward to ensure that the plan is executed for him to achieve what he wants to achieve offensively,” Falvey added. “(But) at this stage, (winter ball) is not in the short-term plan here. We want to focus more first on the fundamental side and the physical side.”

Ehire Adrianza had shoulder surgery

Adrianza had an MRI on his shoulder after the season when the symptoms persisted, and it revealed a torn labrum in his left (non-throwing) shoulder. He had it surgically repaired on Tuesday.

“The projected time of recovery is approximately 3-to-4 months, which clearly puts us right into spring training,” Levine said. “This is part of the reason we wanted to address that as early as we could this offseason. We expect him to be full go in spring training.”

Other health updates

Jason Castro is continuing to progress from his torn meniscus surgery, and is going to be able to go through his full winter of activities, Falvey said.

The same is true for Michael Pineda, who stayed back in Minneapolis for a week after the season ended before heading home.

Eddie Rosario’s quad issue isn’t expected to hamper his offseason of preparation at all.

Adalberto Mejia is expected to go to Fort Myers in late October to have some testing done on the nerve issue that ended his season, and if all goes correctly, he can start throwing in early December and have a fairly normal offseason.

The managerial search is ongoing

Just based on connecting the dots, it seems like the Twins would like to have the manager in place before the World Series so they can start the offseason efforts to make the on-field personnel better right away.

There’s no new clarity on coaching staff roles — including most notably, if holdovers Eddie Guardado or Gene Glynn are expected to stay or if Paul Molitor will accept the offer to stay within the organization — but both Falvey and Levine had plenty to say when asked about the situation surrounding the search.

“We’ve been fairly heavily invested in some phone calls and interviews as well as in-person interviews over the last week,” Falvey said. “I wouldn’t anticipate us having any news or clarity certainly within the next week or so, but I’ll reserve the right to change those things along the way. (That’s) just the realities of the timeline here, but we’ve concluded some interviews with some internal candidates. We’ve started some phone interviews and certainly a lot of reference checking has been going on in the last week, and we certainly anticipate having more of those in-person interviews in the coming 5-to-7 days.”

So what are the Twins looking for in a manager?

“We’ve always talked about partnership and alignment in terms of how we operate,” Falvey said. “I think that’s true in terms of a number of different candidates and we’re going to try to generally understand how they view the team moving forward, their view of clubhouse environment and culture and combinations of uses of scouting and objective information.

“We’re looking for someone who is truly open-minded. We’re looking for a leader. Someone who will partner with us. Someone who is looking to move this organization forward, not just the 25-man roster. I think that’s important. I think we want a partner who crosses all aspects of the organization to invest in the Minnesota Twins across the board.

“We have every expectation — early conversations that we’ve had with internal and external candidates — that we are going to find that person here who’s of high character and a work ethic that we believe a championship-caliber organization puts together. In the short-term here, there are many qualified candidates around baseball no question and I anticipate it will be a difficult decision because of that.”

But again, the hope is to move fairly quickly through the process, not only to start offseason planning, but also because there are five other teams looking as well.

“I think we owe it to ownership and our fanbase to be expedient and nimble,” Levine said. “There are six teams that are currently looking for managers. There’s certainly an overlap of some of the candidates. We need to be nimble enough such that if we interview somebody who their timeline gets pushed up, we don’t intend to necessarily stand on ceremony and be rigid to our timeline.

“Until that time comes, we’re going to operate under — we’re going to try to be as efficient but also as thorough as we can.”

Levine added that plenty of candidates have also reached out to signify interest in addition to those they reached out to, which at least to him signified that the job is an attractive one on the big-league landscape. 

The team is enthused about the move to Pensacola (Double-A)

The Twins have moved their Double-A affiliate from Chattanooga to Pensacola — effectively swapping with the Cincinnati Reds in the process — and Levine said the team is very happy with the decision.

“High,” Levine said when asked of the team’s overall level of enthusiasm for the switch. “You know, there was a very significant vetting process that took place there as well, as there was a finite number of teams that were open in Double-A. So, I think Pensacola was viewed as a very attractive affiliation, and rightfully so, so they were very selective in their decision-making.

“We got a good chance to know those guys pretty well, up and down the organization, and feel very comfortable and confident that our vision of player development was well-aligned with theirs. Their facilities are exceptional; they’re consistently winning awards in that league. So, for a lot of reasons we’re more excited about this than some normal affiliation change. This, in our estimation, has a chance to be a really fruitful relationship.”

Nothing is final with Joe Mauer

“We’ve had conversations with Joe,” Levine said. “Just to dispel that it hasn’t really been related to moving forward; it’s been check-ins with him. But I think we’re still in the same place relative to his future, which he stated at the end of the year.”

Sep 30, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Twins first baseman Joe Mauer (7) and relief pitcher Matt Belisle (38) hug in the ninth inning against Chicago White Sox at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

“We’ve talked to Joe internally about what this would look like going forward,” Falvey continued. “I think we’ll keep the details private. But we told Joe in that right situation and the right thoughts about the future, and obviously there is a lot that goes into signing somebody, we’ve always told him we’d welcome Joe back, certainly.”

The team expects to be active on the position-player front in FA

The holes of this team are more varied and frankly higher in quantity than a year ago, but Falvey suggested the team will be ready to answer the call when the bell rings to open the markets.

“I would anticipate we’ll certainly be active early, as soon as we can be, around potential free agents and trades and otherwise,” Falvey said. “We’re going to focus, as Thad said, on putting resources around our internal group, to advance that group, and then stay open-minded about free agency moving forward.

“We know we have openings on our team, maybe more in terms of free agents than we did maybe going in last year, particularly on the position player side. So we would anticipate being fairly active in that market early on. But at this point, I can’t necessarily pinpoint how much turnover I would expect. But we will obviously have a very different roster going into spring training than we do now.”

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