FORT MYERS, Fla. -- If there's a pitcher on the Minnesota Twins roster this year, chances are he worked with Rick Anderson in the minors.
And liked it.
"When he was named as pitching coach, a lot of guys were pretty happy," said Kyle Lohse, who's vying for a spot as the Twins' fifth starter.
Lohse, 3-18 with Double-A New Britain in 2000, turned himself around in Triple-A last year under Anderson and earned a call-up and a spot in the rotation down the stretch last year for the Twins.
From Radke to Romero, Minnesota's staff is stocked with arms that Anderson -- named in January to replace Dick Such on the Twins' staff -- helped improve. Not to mention psyches he had a hand in repairing.
"A lot of people are comfortable with him," said Joe Mays, who owes some of the success he had as an All-Star last season to the time he spent with Anderson after he was demoted to Triple-A in 2000.
"The biggest thing is that if he explains something one way and it doesn't click to you, he can explain it in another way where it might," Mays said. "He's like 'Why don't you try this?' If it works, great. If not, he doesn't care if you try it again."
Such, Minnesota's pitching coach since 1985 until he was let go after last season, was reserved and rarely seen without a serious expression. Tom Kelly, who recently retired after 15 seasons as manager, demanded a lot from his pitchers and was often critical of the younger ones who didn't throw strikes regularly. With lots of Twins pitchers under age 27, it seems a fresh face might be for the better.
"You get a different perspective," said Adam Johnson, another candidate for the No. 5 starter spot.
New manager Ron Gardenhire isn't going to say he got an upgrade, but the players clearly share some sentiment that Anderson can work wonders for the staff.
"Dick Such was a good friend of mine," Gardenhire said. "We're moving on. Andy gets along with these pitchers. Suchy did, too. Sometimes things change."
Said reliever Jack Cressend: "He's probably the most instrumental guy in my career. Suchy was a very quiet guy. He'd talk to you if he had something to say, but he kind of just let you go about your business. Andy's a little more outspoken."
The pressure of pitching for Kelly might also have been a burden for some. It's tough to see that happening with Anderson.
"There's no dumb question, which is important," Mays said. "Sometimes, you might be kind of hesitant to ask somebody a certain question because you might feel like an idiot. We already have enough stress out there trying to get these darn hitters out. We don't need a coach we've got to be perfect with."
Anderson's road to the majors is similar to the rest of the Twins' coaching staff. Stints with the New York Mets (1986) and the Kansas City Royals ('87 and '88) are the extent of his major league experience. He joined the organization in 1989 and spent the next 12 seasons as a pitching coach -- the last six in Triple-A.
"There's definitely some familiarity here," said Anderson, one of the friendliest faces in the Twins' clubhouse. "I was able to work my way up through our system, and I got rewarded. It's a good thing."
Gardenhire played with Anderson in the Mets' farm system in the early 1980s.
"Andy was a very well-liked and well-respected teammate," Gardenhire said. "It was an easy choice when Suchy was gone."
One of Anderson's most important projects is LaTroy Hawkins, who imploded down the stretch last season as the closer. Anderson arrived a few days before camp started to spend some extra time with Hawkins.
"He's seen me when I was at my best," Hawkins said. "Hopefully I can get back there so he can see it again."
Dave Campbell can be reached at dcampbell(at)ap.org
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.