During Tuesday's stop in Valley City, Minnesota Twins hitting coach Joe Vavra emphasized the value of having veteran leaders on the team.
"You've got to have those guys in the clubhouse to take control of the people they're dressing with," Vavra told an audience of about 60 people at Trestle's Bar and Grill Tuesday. "We're off to the side, we're promoting, obviously, what they're supposed to get done on the field, but you've got to have a leader step up," he said. "You've got to have a voice, somebody they can relate to when times are down."
Vavra's comments were part of the 52nd Annual Twins Winter Caravan, which stopped in Valley City for a community lunch and question and answer session with Vavra, manager Ron Gardenhire and pitchers Glen Perkins and Brian Duensing.
The Q&A was hosted by radio broadcaster Cory Provus, but was open for questions from fans. Not surprisingly, many of those questions were in regards to the team's offseason acquisitions.
Among the team's free agent signings are catcher Ryan Doumit, outfielder Josh Willingham, and pitchers Jason Marquis and Joel Zumaya.
Gardenhire said many of the new faces on the team will provide the important leadership.
"Our chemistry was a little whack this last year, along with our performance on the field," he said. "It's not everything in the world that your clubhouse is perfect, but it sure does mean a lot when everyone's getting along and working for the same thing. These guys are all good leaders inside the clubhouse, plus pretty good baseball players."
Gardenhire also addressed a question over Matt Capps' ability as a closer and whether he would remain in the spot all season.
Gardenhire said that Capps struggled largely due to playing with an injury.
"He's a great teammate, he's got great stuff, he's closed and done very, very well up until last year when he scuffled," he said. "We're going to give him the ball again and see what happens.
Garenhire said if Capps needs rest, there's the potential Perkins could close some games.
Gardenhire also addressed the statuses of catcher Joe Mauer and first baseman Justin Morneau. He said he's frequently asked about their injuries and where they may end up playing on the field.
Both missed games last year as Mauer dealt with several injuries and Morneau dealt with concussion systems.
"They're both doing fine," Gardenhire said. "Mauer's down and working out and swinging. We know Morneau's had quite a few surgeries but he's actually starting baseball activity and feeling very well. He's really had no problems with his head from what he told me."
Gardenhire said his staff would wait until spring training to decide on which positions the two would play, but emphasized the importance of getting them on the field.
"We're going to do whatever it takes to get them on the baseball field," he said. "We need those guys playing and if it's Mauer at first base and Morneau catching or Mauer catching and Morneau at first base, we just want them playing. I know you want to see them playing and I want to see them playing."