SPORTS COMMENTARY: How are Twins feeling? Don't expect Gardy to ask
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Minnesota Twins' new "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy appears to be working splendidly. Manager Ron Gardenhire refuses to ask any of his players how they are feeling. He might say, "Good morning" or "How's it going?" But neve...
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Minnesota Twins' new "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy appears to be working splendidly.
Manager Ron Gardenhire refuses to ask any of his players how they are feeling. He might say, "Good morning" or "How's it going?" But never, ever, "How ya feeling?"
"Because I don't give a (expletive)," Gardenhire noted after Saturday's 7-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays. "I'm writing them down in the lineup. They have to tell me. I don't chase. That's my new policy. I won't chase. They'll have to come to me and tell me that they can't play. Take it for what it is."
And, frankly, he'd rather not have them notify him of any ailments. That's the "don't tell" part of it. Just go out and play.
Hey, these new, 2012 Twins are tough. The postgame spread consists of rusty nails and used motor oil. New shortstop Jamey Carroll, who is about the size of my index finger, took a fastball to the helmet Saturday. Thwack! He got up and casually made his way to first base.
"The goal is to get on base, right?" he said with a chuckle.
Very old school.
"I've had more people tell me old-school coaches stories," Gardenhire said with a chuckle. Then he lowered his voice and mimicked a drill sergeant type.
"You see those five guys riding the bike in the trainer's room? They aren't going to play today. But I guarantee you those five bikes will be out of there tomorrow. OUT!" he bellowed.
Other than Joel Zumaya blowing out his arm, the Twins have had very few injury problems this spring. My sense is that everyone is rather embarrassed by what happened in 2011. So it might take a bullet to an artery to keep them off the field this time around. That's a good thing. And Gardenhire isn't taking any chances.
"Great day for baseball," he'll say to one of his ballplayers. Or maybe, "Nice-looking shirt." But never, ever will he inquire as to their general health. It's like when you walk into an old folks' home. You probably don't want to ask anyone how they are feeling because, God love 'em, they'll give you an earful. And it's probably not going to be pretty.
"Exactly," Gardenhire said.
Meanwhile, Denard Span took two tumbles in center field Saturday, one at the base of the wall. He also had a liner whiz past him while on the base paths. Coupled with the Carroll beaning, it's as if the baseball gods are trying to test the Twins' new resolve. But so far, no problem. The tough talk over the winter is being put into practice this spring. Gardenhire went into a rant the other day about how there won't be any players "on scholarship" this year. General manager Terry Ryan backs him up on this.
That's especially true of the minor leaguers who were called up during various emergencies and appeared to develop a sense of entitlement.
"There were guys that came up that, if you look at the statistics, it might not have been the right call for their benefit, their development. But you've got to go get players when people go down," Ryan said. "You can only go outside the organization so many times. But I do not have much interest in going down to get a guy unless he warrants the promotion."
And the new get-tough approach extends to be about more than just playing through injuries. There currently is a zero-tolerance policy toward mental mistakes. If a guy messes up during one of the exhibition games, or even one of the drills, he gets called out immediately.
"If we see something that doesn't go right, there's six guys going after one guy right now," Gardenhire said. "We have to be accountable now, make sure we're paying attention. 'Get your head out of your #$%!' "
Gardenhire makes it sound as if six coaches descend on a guy and rough him up, like some sort of baseball gang. And maybe they do. Cool.
You have to give credit to some of the players, too. Alexi Casilla, slowed in the second half of 2011 by a bad hamstring, went to winter ball to work on his timing and conditioning.
"Now nothing is bothering me," he said. "No more pains."
So we'll see. This is the most no-nonsense camp I've seen. The coaches are chirping. The players are hustling. And everybody is sweating. Perhaps best of all, nobody is getting hurt.
Or if they are, they aren't telling, which is almost as good.
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