White signs one-year deal with Twins
After an off year, veteran believes 2007 will be a better season
Rondell White did not live up to expectations in his first season with Minnesota after he was signed as a free agent last December. In fact, the talented and affable outfielder didn't really come close.
But almost one year to the date of his original signing with the Twins, White has returned to Minnesota with a one-year, $2.75 million deal that was announced on Wednesday afternoon. Both general manager Terry Ryan and White believe the outfielder's 2007 numbers will more closely resemble his production from July, September and the playoff series against Oakland, as opposed to the rest of the previous campaign.
"He had a couple of good months for us, but it was not what I was hoping for last year collectively," said Ryan of White's first year in Minnesota. "He had some shoulder situations that hindered his swing, so we wanted to bring him back and allow him to do the type of things he's capable of doing."
"I told my agent that my No. 1 goal was to come back to Minnesota," White added. "I have a lot of pride in what I do. It's a great team and [it has] a great chance to get to the World Series and win, plus [it has] a bunch of great guys and coaches. I wanted to come back, too, because we have a great chance to win but also to do better. I don't want Minnesota to remember me that way."
White, who turns 34 on Feb. 23, actually will earn $2.5 million in 2007, with a 2008 option for $3.5 million if he makes 525 plate appearances, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. If White reaches 550 appearances, the option jumps to $3.75 million. That option then moves to $4 million if White reaches 600 appearances. If he doesn't hit the base-option level, the Twins can opt for a $250,000 buyout.
Right shoulder problems led to a very rough start to 2006 for White, who hit a paltry .136 in April with 20 strikeouts and no walks after agreeing to a $2.5 million deal in the offseason. White bounced back to hit .263 in May, slipped to .059 over 17 June at-bats but later jumped to .373 with three home runs and 10 RBIs in July.
After a rough August, in which White hit .143 over 28 at-bats, the veteran finished with a .351 average in September and was 5-for-12 with one home run and two RBIs in the three-game American League Division Series loss to Oakland. White thrived offensively as the team's starting left fielder, putting up a .328 average with five home runs and 19 RBIs in 134 at-bats, but he only hit .194 over 196 at-bats as a designated hitter.
Wednesday's signing brings back White as the Twins' primary left fielder, although the presence of Lew Ford, Jason Tyner, Jason Kubel and newly signed Jeff Cirillo gives manager Ron Gardenhire the opportunity to keep his players rested and ready in left field and at DH.
"Playing DH sometimes is cool, you know," White said. "But I'm just comfortable in left, and going to go out and give it everything I've got."
"Some guys can handle [the DH role] and flourish with it, and some are more comfortable in a defensive position," Ryan added. "After a number of weeks, Rondell just never felt comfortable in the DH slot."
Ryan mentioned that the Twins explored a few other options in the outfield, "some who are still out there and some who are still gone." But the team came back to the veteran presence of White and the intangibles that he brings.
"This guy is a responsible guy, he's an accountable guy," said Ryan. "He wants to come back and show fans of the Twins organization he's a better player than what we saw in 2006.
"I like a lot of things he brings to the club and organization. I know he came under criticism and handled it well. He has a lot of respect in our clubhouse and in the game."
Minnesota also needs White's right-handed bat to balance a lineup with the left-handed-hitting bats of AL Most Valuable Player Justin Morneau and AL batting champion Joe Mauer. White explained how he started working out and doing cardio right after he returned from the playoffs, doing Pilates twice a week.
He also has been hitting off the tee the last couple of weeks and following the Twins' workout book, while adding in his own stuff. Basically, the well-respected White doesn't want his .246 average, seven home runs, 38 RBIs and .276 on-base percentage to be remembered as his sole contribution to another strong playoff contender.
"There's not a better team to come back to with an AL MVP, CY Young, batting champ and what could have been a Manager of the Year," White said. "We also had a Gold Glove center fielder that hit 30 home runs. The team started to flow, I started to flow and everybody picked everything up. Hopefully, now we'll just start everything off on the right track this next year.
"Plus, this team kept me around last year. Any other team and I would have been back on my couch during the second half. They stuck with me, and I want to prove that I can do it. I'm not going to try to do too much, but just relax and enjoy playing. I feel like in the second half, I got my soul back.
"This is where I want to come. I didn't want to end my career on a note like that. I had a good second half, but didn't want to go out like that. It will all be better because I'm on a mission -- on a mission to come back and play good."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.