Notes: Gardenhire tones it down a bit

Notes: Gardenhire tones it down a bit

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Relaxed wouldn't be the first word chosen to describe Twins manager Ron Gardenhire.

The manager infamous for his on-field tirades with umpires and prankster nature in the clubhouse has never been known as a laid-back type of guy. The extra energy Gardenhire brings to the job is something he's felt is part of his nature and has never tried to change.

Some wondered, though, if last year's health scare would affect that attitude. Gardenhire suffered heart palpitations during a game against Chicago in late August and then underwent tests to determine what was causing the scare.

"It was basically an anxiety-type thing where I get too worked up or something," Gardenhire said. "I seem to be doing pretty good with it. I don't think about it too much."

Gardenhire has made some minor changes, such as trying to eat better and dwindling his caffeine habit. Well -- cutting back as much as he can, under his standards.

"I quit talking about anything that would make my heart speed up, because I figure I do that on my own," Gardenhire said. "I've really cut back on coffee. I drink maybe half a cup of coffee now, sometimes a cup of coffee, a day. But it's hard to get rid of Mountain Dew. I like that stuff."

Even though Gardenhire has made changes to his lifestyle, the concern over his heart palpitations is not a constant thought for the Twins skipper. The health scare did, however, make him pause for a moment.

"It definitely makes you sit back and think when you are going through all these tests and they're shooting titanium through your veins," Gardenhire said. "It definitely makes you sit back and think, 'You know ... don't let this game whack you.'"

As to whether the concern over anxiety will change his usual high energy in the dugout, Gardenhire said not to expect a different type of manager this season.

"I'm just me in the dugout," Gardenhire said. "I try to have fun."

Intimidation factor: Facing Francisco Liriano, Jesse Crain and Joe Nathan in one game is intimidating enough for any Major League hitter.

Now, imagine being a Division-II college baseball player.

That's the scenario facing the Golden Bears of Concordia University-St. Paul on Wednesday as they face the Twins in the annual exhibition game between the two teams.

Usually it's not an All-Star rotation that the Twins would throw against such a college team, but this year is a bit different. With many of his pitchers leaving early for various country's camps for the World Baseball Classic, Gardenhire wants to make sure that each gets a chance to get some work.

It is not certain whether Crain will throw Wednesday or Thursday, but Gardenhire said Liriano will start the five- or six-inning exhibition with Nathan also pitching in the game. Those two are priorities, as Liriano is set to pitch for Venezuela on March 5 and Nathan leaves for Team USA camp on Thursday.

"Concordia is thinking about not showing up," Gardenhire said with a chuckle. "They are starting to get a little nervous now."

No more bullpen: The Twins' biggest concern surrounding the World Baseball Classic was eased Sunday as they learned that Carlos Silva will be a starter for Venezuela.

There had been talk about Silva pitching out of the bullpen, but instead he will join Johan Santana as a part of Venezuela's intimidating rotation. Gardenhire said that Silva is set to start the March 9 game, two days after Santana pitches the first game for the country.

More versatility: During infield drills on Sunday, Ruben Sierra was part of a group taking ground balls at first base.

Sierra has spent time in the outfield and at the designated hitter spot during his 20-year career, but never at first base. However, with a crowded outfield, it appears that the Twins want to see what other defensive positions that the 40-year-old can play.

Twins general manager Terry Ryan was standing along the fence watching some of the drills as he waited for a radio interview and said that adding a position could be helpful for a player like Sierra.

"You always like a guy that has enough versatility to play defense," Ryan said. "You never want to have a guy sit over there that can just hit. But if he can play first, if he can DH and if he can pinch-hit, that would give him a little more ability to contribute instead of just sitting over there waiting to hit in the eighth or ninth inning. That type of player doesn't give a manager much flexibility."

Quotable: "We lost to Concordia last year and we didn't make the playoffs. That's what I'm blaming it on. I started looking back through the season and I think Concordia beating us may have started it. So I'm going to take care of that on Wednesday." -- Gardenhire, on wanting to win this year's exhibition game against the college

Twins tidbits: Sunday's workout was limited due to some bad weather that struck early in the morning. A few strong rain showers soaked the Twins' practice fields, creating changes to the practice schedule. Hitting was moved to the cages and pitchers were unable to get in some of their drills. ... Pitcher Juan Rincon is still working on a day-to-day basis. An exact timetable has not been set for when Rincon will start throwing off the mound. ... Outfielder and non-roster invitee Denard Span came to camp with a tender shoulder and has been performing rehab. Span has only been throwing lightly but did participate in outfield drills over the weekend. ... It is still unknown exactly who will start games during the absence of Santana, Silva and Liriano, but Gardenhire said that other young arms such as Boof Bonser and Dave Gassner likely will get some opportunities.

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.