Twins name Vavra new hitting coach

Twins name Vavra new hitting coach

MINNEAPOLIS -- Coming off their first non-playoff season since 2001 when their offense struggled to generate runs, the Twins tapped Joe Vavra to be their new hitting coach Thursday.

Vavra, who spent the past four years as the Twins' Minor League field coordinator, replaced longtime hitting coach Scott Ullger. Ullger will coach third base next season, filling the spot created earlier this month when Al Newman left to take a scouting position with the Diamondbacks.

The 45-year-old Vavra, who lives near the Twin Cities in Menomonie, Wisc., never played or coached in the Major Leagues. But he was a Minor League manager in the Dodgers organization from 1989-97 after he spent six seasons as a player there.

Last week, Twins general manager Terry Ryan originally offered the hitting coach position to Minor League instructor and Hall of Famer Paul Molitor but was turned down. With the help of his advisors, Ryan said several candidates were evaluated from both inside and outside the organization.

"It always seemed to come back to Joe," Ryan said Thursday morning without naming other candidates. "He has a lot of knowledge about hitting and our organization. He has a familiarity with our players and staff."

Vavra will be counted on to help revive a woeful and inexperienced 2005 offense, which ranked at or near the bottom of the American League in several key categories. The Twins were last with 688 runs scored and second to last in team batting average at .259. Particularly crippling for the "small ball" styled team was that several hitters lost their way fundamentally. They often were unable to execute bunts, move runners over or hit with runners in scoring position.

"A lot of our guys are younger and have the objective to right some of the things that happened," Ryan said. "Joe can help the cause."

The Twins announced that the rest of manager Ron Gardenhire's coaching staff would be unchanged for 2006. Rick Anderson (pitching coach), Jerry White (first base coach), Rick Stelmaszek (bullpen coach) and Steve Liddle (bench coach) were all brought back. Gardenhire will assume Newman's old role of also working with the infielders.

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