Veterans Kubel, Bartlett back at TwinsFest
Slugger, shortstop signed Minor League deals in offseason to return to Minnesota
MINNEAPOLIS -- A pair of familiar faces were back at TwinsFest this weekend, as Jason Kubel and Jason Bartlett made their returns to the annual event after re-joining the Twins on Minor League deals this offseason.
Kubel, who played seven seasons with the Twins before departing for the D-backs via free agency in 2012, signed a Minor League deal with Minnesota in mid-December. And Bartlett, who played in Minnesota for four years from 2004-07, before being traded to the Rays in the Delmon Young swap, signed a Minor League deal with the Twins in November.
Kubel, 31, has a strong chance to make the team as a designated hitter and corner outfielder as long as he stays healthy, as he dealt with leg injuries in 2013 that limited him to just a .216 average and five homers in 97 games, after he hit .253 with 30 homers in 141 games in '12.
"I came in here at the end of last year [while with the Indians] and talked to everyone here and I just missed them," Kubel said. "I told them that I would like to come back, and they said the same. So I was excited in the offseason to be able to talk to them about that."
Kubel also joked that he didn't know about 85 percent of the faces at TwinsFest because of the turnover the club has experienced in recent years. But he knows Bartlett, as they played together in the Minors before both making their Twins debuts in '04.
Bartlett, though, is considered less likely to make the club than Kubel because he didn't play at all in 2013, and played in just 29 games with the Padres in '12, because of a sprained right knee that required surgery.
But Bartlett, 34, said he's been working out all offseason in hopes of making the club, and has been told that he's being brought in as competition at shortstop for Pedro Florimon.
"I'm going in trying to start," Bartlett said. "If I come out of camp as a utility, so be it. But I feel good."
Dozier eager to build on sophomore campaign
MINNEAPOLIS -- It's been a busy offseason for Brian Dozier.
Dozier, who dealt with a bone bruise in his left knee late last season, spent the first part of the offseason letting his knee heal before heading on a mission trip to Nicaragua in November.
The second baseman went with his fiancée, Renee, on the trip, and the two got married three weeks ago and spent their honeymoon in Maui before Dozier headed to the Twin Cities for Twins Caravan and TwinsFest.
So Dozier is ready to put his busy offseason behind him and focus on building on a solid sophomore campaign that saw him finish in the top four among Major League second basemen in extra-base hits with 55.
"We all have individual goals," Dozier said. "I want to steal more bases. I got shut down at the end of the year and didn't steal as much because of my knee. So I feel healthy now and want to steal bases and get on base more next year."
Dozier, who stole 14 bases in 21 tries last year, said his knee is fully healed and checked out just fine when he underwent a physical exam at Target Field on Friday.
He added that one of the things he's looking forward to most in 2014 is working with Hall of Famer Paul Molitor, who was added to the Major League coaching staff to help with infield defense and baserunning.
"Molitor will be doing the positioning and defense and all that, but he's so knowledgeable on the basepaths and has little tidbits on timing and reads on pitchers," Dozier said. "Having him in the dugout to pick up on all that stuff will be good."
Sano's elbow checks out during physical
MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins prospect Miguel Sano underwent a physical exam at Target Field on Friday, and he said everything checked out fine, including tests on his right elbow.
Sano, who was ranked as baseball's No. 4 overall prospect on Thursday, was originally diagnosed with a strained ulnar collateral ligament in mid-October, but he has been rehabbing his elbow at the club's Spring Training complex in Fort Myers, Fla. The third baseman sounded confident on Saturday that his elbow won't hinder him in Spring Training and that he won't need surgery to repair his UCL.
"Everything was good," said Sano, who estimated he's undergone about four physicals this offseason. "No problems with my elbow."
Sano, 20, is still rehabbing the elbow, however, as he's on a throwing program that has him playing catch at 90 feet. But Sano is still expected to be ready for Spring Training, and this year he was invited to big league camp for the first time. He's also already aiming to make the club out of Spring Training, even though he's likely ticketed for Triple-A Rochester to open the season.
"I'd like to be here on Opening Day," Sano said. "I'm working hard. I've got to play hard every day. This opportunity with Minnesota, they opened the door for me."
Plouffe focused on his own improvement
MINNEAPOLIS -- Trevor Plouffe knows there's no sense in worrying about things he can't control.
So while Plouffe knows he'll be inundated with questions about top prospect Miguel Sano's impending arrival at third base -- which could come as soon as this upcoming season -- he doesn't worry much about it.
"I'm not really concerned with that," Plouffe said. "I want to help the team win. That's all I really care about. Miguel is a great player, and if he comes up and helps our team, we want him. We want anyone who can help the team."
Plouffe, 27, has actually befriended Sano and calls him, "Primo," which means cousin in Spanish. So there's no potential conflict between the two players, according to both Sano and Plouffe.
"I talk a lot to him," Sano said. "He talks about defense a lot. He said to be ready in Spring Training and work hard."
Plouffe spent the first two months of the offseason rehabbing his injured left wrist, which sapped his power in 2013. The third baseman hit 24 homers in 119 games in '12, but saw that number drop to 14 in 129 games last year.
Plouffe said he kept in constant contact with hitting coach Tom Brunansky this offseason, as the two spent their offseasons in Southern California. Plouffe trained at Pepperdine University in Malibu, and said he added 10 pounds to his frame, so he's now at 212 pounds.
But Plouffe refused to use his wrist as an excuse for his struggles last year, and he wants to add to his RBI total this season after hitting just .208 with runners in scoring position last year.
"That's my role in the lineup, to be a run producer," Plouffe said. "I haven't been able to do that. Runners in scoring position is something we need to work on. I talked to Bruno, and that's something that we're going to keep working on. I think that's the most important thing to me: being able to score runs and drive in runs."