Condrey says Twins could be ready for next step
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Clay Condrey rejoiced as he pulled both hamstrings.
It was October 2008 and he had joined his Philadelphia Phillies teammates in a pile, celebrating their World Series championship. He didn't mind the pain.
"It was pretty neat, running in," Condrey said. "It was like a bunch of little kids running in for an ice cream party."
Condrey hopes to repeat the pileup at the end of this season, his first as a relief pitcher for the Minnesota Twins after signing a one-year, $650,000 contract. The 34-year-old Condrey said he sees a lot of similarities between this year's Twins and the World Series champion team he played on.
"This easily could conceivably be a championship team," Condrey said. "You look at talent they have in this room and the talent that they brought in. You can just sense the confidence in every one of these guys in this clubhouse. It makes you feel real good. Everybody wants to work together."
The Phillies reached the postseason in 2007, only to be swept by the Colorado Rockies. That experience helped fuel the Phillies on their 2008 title run.
The Twins reached the playoffs in 2009, only to be swept by the New York Yankees.
Condrey signed with the Twins as possible bullpen help this season. He was 6-2 with a 3.00 ERA in 45 appearances for the Phillies last year. Twins general manager Bill Smith said they were targeting a strong arm with experience and they got both in Condrey.
"He's been through the rigors of a pressure-packed situation," Smith said. "He's a great makeup guy. He can pitch often. He's been through two pennant races, and he's been to a World Series. That's important stuff."
Condrey can tell the Twins want to avoid another such sweep and reach their first World Series since 1991.
"To me, it solidified the reason why I played this game — why I kept at it as long as I have," Condrey said of reaching the World Series. He did not appear in any of the games, he said, as the starters pitched long enough to turn the game over to the setup men and closer.
"I had an opportunity to go to a World Series and to win it," Condrey said. "It was unbelievable."
For a while, Condrey wondered if he even would play in the major leagues.
The New York Yankees chose Condrey with the last pick of the 1996 draft out of Angelina (Tex.) Junior College — that's the 94th round and the 1,728th overall pick.
When the Yankees scout called Condrey, he asked him, "What round did I get drafted in?" The scout replied, "Well, I think it's better if I don't tell you."
Condrey chose instead to attend McNeese State, signing as an amateur free agent with the San Diego Padres in 1998. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he appreciated his team landing an accomplished veteran.
"I just saw him throw batting practice the other day," Gardenhire said. "He's pretty fun to watch. He was locating the ball as well as anybody, and not one ball went straight. It was either or cutting or sinking. The ball was bouncing off his hand pretty good, and he wasn't throwing full speed either. He was doing what a veteran does, just throwing the ball over.
"He's a guy who can help you at the end of the ball game. He has a track record. He can get some people out in big situations. From the sixth through the eighth innings, he can do those types of things."
NOTES: Gardenhire announced his starting lineup for his team's spring training opener: CF Denard Span, 2B Alexi Casilla, DH Jason Kubel, RF Michael Cuddyer, LF Jacque Jones, 3B Brendan Harris, 1B Brock Peterson, C Drew Butera, SS Matt Tolbert. RHP Nick Blackburn will start, pitch two innings and be relieved by Kevin Slowey.