Twins

Carlos Correa Is Lowering His Hands To Turn Back Time

Photo credit: Jonah Hinebaugh/Naples Daily News-USA TODAY NETWORK

Carlos Correa made his “My Time” gesture famous in the postseason. He’s tied with David Ortiz for the most walk-off hits in playoff history, including two game-ending home runs. But he hit the first walk-off home run of his career against the Milwaukee Brewers on June 14 last year. Down 5-3 entering the ninth, Correa’s two-run blast off Milwaukee closer Devin Williams capped the Minnesota Twins’ four-run rally.

Correa’s home run flew to the second deck in left field. As the ball was in the air, he looked at his teammates in the dugout and started tapping his wrist. Minnesota had only won two of their past eight games. Correa battled plantar fasciitis and hit .230/.312/.399 last season. But in that moment, the Twins needed Correa to tap into his All-Star form to avoid falling below .500, and he delivered. “Correa pointing to his watch,” Edouard Julien said. “That was probably one of the coolest moments I’ve seen on a baseball field.”

The Twins need Correa to have more moments like that this season. He played well defensively last season and hit .409/.458/.546 in the playoffs. But Correa wasn’t the player he was in 2022 when he hit .291/.366/.467 and earned a $200 million extension. At spring training, he said his foot healed after two months of rest, and he’s had his first normal offseason after going through free agency the past two years. Correa took his family on a cruise and to Disneyland but had a slow offseason otherwise. He got up early to work out and spent the rest of the day with his wife and kids.

Last year, Correa tinkered with his swing throughout the season. In the offseason, he worked on a more direct, compact swing. Correa’s hands start lower than before, and he distributes his weight more toward his heels. He also ditched a leg kick for a smaller toe tap. Correa has adjusted his swing to be more like the one he had in 2021 when he hit .279/.366/.485 in his final season with the Houston Astros. Correa also made his second All-Star team, earned a Gold Glove, and received MVP votes.

“I haven’t really seen him hit balls like that in a long time,” Twins hitting coach David Popkins said after watching Correa take batting practice early in spring training. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen him clear the batter’s eye. He hit one way over the batter’s eye.”

Popkins attributes most of Correa’s swing adjustments last year to plantar fasciitis. It was painful for Correa to keep weight on his heels in his batting stance, so he leaned too much on his toes. Correa also typically keeps a tall chest in his stance, but he leaned over the plate last season to compensate for the injury. “It’s not like he wasn’t trying to use his heels,” Popkins explained. “Naturally, the body avoids pain and goes for self-preservation.”

In a mid-January interview with Kris Atteberry, Rocco Baldelli said that plantar fasciitis is “very painful” and “difficult to play through.” Baldelli battled plantar fasciitis while playing for the Tampa Bay Rays, so he knows what Correa was going through. Baldelli said he battled it all season and didn’t get relief until he could rest in the offseason. At spring training, Baldelli said he still has it to this day. “But he really found ways to get through it,” Baldelli told Atteberry, referring to Correa, “literally biting his lip and just kind of limping his way through.”

However, Correa felt the most pain after losing to Houston in the ALDS. The Twins broke through in the postseason, winning their first playoff game series since 2002. But Correa’s old team beat them in four games. “It hurts. It hurts to lose,” he said after the series. “Like I told the guys when I spoke to them after the loss, just remember that. Remember that because you don’t want to ever feel that again. Next year, when you show up to spring training, show up better.”

Correa believes his teammates took his words to heart. “Everybody looks great, looks in shape,” he said after arriving in spring training. “I saw the swings (Thursday) in the cage, and a lot of guys are looking dangerous already. I’m very excited for what’s to come this year. It’s a team that’s very young but got enough experience last year for us to believe that we can do it against any team. I’m excited to get started.”

In 2017, Correa hit .315/.391/.550, made his first All-Star team, and won the World Series. He parlayed his second All-Star season into a $35 million contract with the Twins, then earned a six-year extension after a turbulent offseason. Royce Lewis, Matt Wallner, and Julien broke out as rookies last year. Pablo López delivered in the playoffs, and Minnesota enters the season with one of the best bullpens in baseball. They have a good mix of quality young players and established veterans.

But Correa is the glue that holds everything together. He’s the shortstop Minnesota hasn’t had since Cristian Guzmán. The clubhouse leader with a championship pedigree. If he can adjust his hands and turn the clock back to 2021, the Twins can build off their playoff run last year. Time heals all wounds, but many of last year’s players continue to feel the sting of their playoff loss. In more ways than one, Correa can make time stand still.

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Photo credit: Jonah Hinebaugh/Naples Daily News-USA TODAY NETWORK

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