Molitor Optimistic about Twins’ Season
Paul Molitor told Sports Headliners during a telephone interview yesterday he is “optimistic” about the Twins having a successful 2019 season. The former Twins manager likes the team’s potential and he was down in spring training recently watching the club he managed from 2015-2018. He likes the roster’s potential.
Many odds-making authorities believe the Cleveland Indians will win the AL Central Division. The Indians, winners of three consecutive division titles, are in town for a three-game series against the Twins starting with Thursday’s season opener at Target Field. This week Bovada, the popular online gambling site, had Cleveland as the favorite to win another division championship, with the Twins next and followed by the White Sox, Tigers and Royals.
Sports Illustrated, though, has a different forecast than the trend to favor the Indians, who boast perhaps baseball’s best starting staff but didn’t upgrade the overall roster enough to win the magazine’s full confidence. In the publication’s MLB preview issue that came out late this month, S.I. ranks the Twins No. 5 among American League clubs, and predicts Minnesota will win the division with a 90-72 record. The Indians will finish 89-73 and one game behind the Twins in the standings.
There is optimism about the Twins, 78-84 last season, because there are multiple promising additions to the roster—and their division is perhaps the worst in the 30-team majors. “The Twins lineup has been beefed up, and the (pitching) rotation boasts surprising depth,” said S.I.
Quotes in the magazine from an anonymous scout included comments about mystery players Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano. “…Byron Buxton has all the talent in the world, but he essentially got the previous regime ousted with how he crapped the bed,” the scout said. “Miguel Sano is always hurt and always fat, but there’s hope for Buxton and Max Kepler, who needs to lift the ball with more authority.”
If S.I. is correct in predicting the Twins will lose in the postseason to the Yankees, that will be the sixth time New York has ended Minnesota’s advancement in the playoffs.
Molitor is in ongoing discussions with the Twins about a future role with the club. He was fired after last season with reportedly two years remaining on his contract. He was AL Manager of the Year in 2017 when he led the 85-77 team to the playoffs.
The popular 62-year-old Minnesota native said he remains open to managing again in the majors but he is using time away from the game to be with family including 12-year-old son Ben who accompanied him to spring training.
Molitor is friends with Golden Gophers baseball coach John Anderson whose team has its home opener at Siebert Field starting at 6 p.m. on Wednesday. Minnesota is 7-13 overall, 2-0 in the Big Ten.
Former Gopher football wide receiver Drew Hmielewski, who gave up football last year to focus on baseball, hit his first career home run for Minnesota on Sunday in a win over Penn State. He is a redshirt sophomore outfielder.
With his outstanding play in regular season and tournament games in March, Gophers junior forward Amir Coffey might now project as a late first round pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Coffey will test NBA interest in the coming weeks. He is better than some players on current NBA rosters, but he might benefit from gaining more physical strength and experience by returning to Minnesota for his final season of eligibility.
This is the first school year in University of Minnesota history the Gophers have won a football bowl game (December against Georgia Tech) and NCAA Tourney basketball games (last Thursday, Louisville; Saturday, Michigan State).
The opinion here is Kevin Harlan, who called the Gophers’ two NCAA Tournament games for CBS last week and was the original radio voice of the Timberwolves, is the best play-by-play guy ever to work in Minneapolis-St. Paul calling professional or University of Minnesota sports.
If Scott Layden doesn’t return as Timberwolves general manager after this season, Calvin Booth might be a candidate to replace him. Booth is assistant general manager of the Nuggets and previously worked in the Wolves’ front office.
Media outlets, including the Kansas City Star, were reporting yesterday that Rochester John Marshall five-star forward Matthew Hurt will announce his college choice April 19. Presumably the University of Kansas is still a finalist, although speculation is Jayhawks coach Bill Self could one day be coaching in the NBA where his name has been linked to the Bulls, Spurs and Thunder.
Hopkins star point guard Paige Bueckers is on spring break this week in Billings, Montana, where she is instructing youngsters at the free “Buckets With Bueckers” clinics. Paige’s mom, Amy, lives in Billings.
Former Gophers football coach Jerry Kill, now athletic director at Southern Illinois, will be in Minneapolis next week for the Final Four and plans to see friends he made here from 2011-2015.
Game time for the annual Gophers Spring Football Game has been set for 11 a.m. Saturday, April 13 at TCF Bank Stadium.
The top three overall seeds in the NCAA men’s hockey playoffs are schools from the state of Minnesota, with No. 1 St. Cloud State, No. 2 Minnesota Duluth and No. 3 Minnesota State. A college hockey authority told Sports Headliners that’s a historical first for Minnesota hockey.
The Minnesota Wild, with five games remaining in the regular season, are likely to make the playoffs if goalie Devan Dubnyk is at his best. A playoff spot will be a positive with season ticket holders who are seeing an increase in the cost of seats for 2019-2020.
Former Vikings draft choice WR Moritz Böhringer of Germany is on the Bengals practice squad as part of the 2018 NFL International Player Pathway Program.