Luis Arraez is healthy and willing to contribute wherever, whenever and whatever is asked of him.
That was the main message he delivered — with an upbeat tone — during his first Zoom session with the media since the Minnesota Twins signed Andrelton Simmons. Arraez’s role will be shifting with the new shortstop on board, but the 23-year-old seems to be embracing the change.
“I’m looking forward to coming to camp and just (working) hard on my craft and getting better every day, and my job is going to be my job,” Arraez said. “At the end of the day, whatever it’s going to be, I’m just looking forward to working hard.”
With Simmons settling in at shortstop, the Twins are planning on shifting Jorge Polanco from shortstop to second base. That leaves Arraez in a super-sub role similar to the one Marwin Gonzalez occupied for the Twins the past two seasons.
While Arraez only appeared at second base during last year’s truncated season, the Twins moved him around a bit during his rookie season in 2019. Arraez played 49 games at second base, 21 in left field, 17 at third base and eight at shortstop, as well as making a handful of appearances as the team’s designated hitter.
Arraez said he talked to manager Rocco Baldelli the day the team signed Simmons, but they have not yet discussed where he might be used the most throughout the season.
“My mindset is to just be ready for both,” Arraez said of playing in the infield and outfield.
The Twins notably have a spot open in left field after non-tendering Eddie Rosario this offseason. While the Twins have plenty of outfield options to choose from — Jake Cave, Brent Rooker and top prospect Alex Kirilloff among them — Arraez said he’s ready to play left field if that’s what the Twins want him to do.
“I feel like left field, it’s not a difficult position, but you also have to work on your craft, and so I’m looking forward to that,” Arraez said. “And the little things that I can learn to make this team better, if I’m out there playing left field, I’m going to do it.”
One big thing that will help make the Twins better is simply having Arraez healthy. He was bothered by left knee tendinitis throughout last season, at one point landing on the injured list because of it.
But Arraez, who has been training at the Twins’ facility in Fort Myers, Fla., since early December, said his knees feel “way better than last year” at this point, attributing that to a weightlifting program he’s been working on with director of strength and conditioning Ian Kadish and others to strengthen his knees.
Arraez seemed confident that work would help keep him healthy throughout the 2021 season.
“I believe I just have to keep at it with that routine I’ve been doing this offseason,” Arraez said. “I think I’ll be fine as long as I keep doing that.”
And if he is healthy, the Twins know he’ll be able to contribute with the bat, no matter where he is on the field. Arraez hit .321 in last year’s shortened season, a year after debuting and drawing ample praise all around for his contact ability and lofty comparisons to hall of famers Rod Carew and Tony Gwynn from Cleveland manager Terry Francona.
“I’m just trying to stay ready,” Arraez said. “I’m going to be ready for Opening Day and for whatever the team needs.”