Fastball command the focus at first workout

Fastball command the focus at first workout

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Before Twins pitchers threw their bullpens on the first day of workouts, pitching coach Neil Allen gathered his players to explain a renewed emphasis on fastball command this spring.

As a result, Twins pitchers had to throw three of their five fastballs to the glove side for strikes before moving on to throwing three out of five for strikes to the arm side. If they failed, they had to start over again, and pitchers couldn't throw their offspeed stuff until completing the drill.

"It's an emphasis to try to get them to be as consistent as possible," catcher Jason Castro said. "We're trying to establish that fastball before we get ahead of ourselves."

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It was just one new wrinkle for the Twins on Wednesday, as they try to move on from their 103-loss season and find ways to improve with a roster that has many of the same faces as last year.

Most of the day-to-day workouts leading up to Grapefruit League play will resemble the same plan the Twins have been using for years, but there will be more of an emphasis on smaller groups and even one-on-one instruction. Each player will also meet with Twins manager Paul Molitor, chief baseball officer Derek Falvey and general manager Thad Levine to get a sense of what's expected of him this spring.

"We're probably going to add some things with outfielders, and pitchers, as far as pickoff moves and different things," Molitor said. "[Allen] changed his bullpen work here early in the year about meeting requirements about throwing strikes and commanding your fastball. But generally, I don't think you're going to see anything overly different."

One scientific change will be an increase in tracking players and their fatigue levels, especially with such a long spring because of the World Baseball Classic. The Twins experimented with the information last year, but it'll become more of a focus for the strength and conditioning and training staffs this spring and during the season.

"We're monitoring that stuff a lot more analytically because we have data that we can measure," Molitor said. "We're grading out how much workload is given to each pitcher and each player every day in terms of pregame extra work. We try to keep a monitor and put a number on their workload and try to see how that accumulates over time and where we can be careful and prevent injuries."

Another change this spring is the absence of former manager Tom Kelly, who saw his streak of 47 straight Spring Trainings snapped due to health concerns. Kelly, who led the Twins to two World Series titles as manager, was a fixture during infield drills, especially on Tom Kelly Field. He also served as a mentor to Molitor, whom he managed as a player.

"It'll be a big void," Molitor said. "Even after being removed from managing now for quite a while, he's still very influential. But he's doing the right thing to take care of himself."

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for since 2011. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.