Oswaldo Arcia is no batting coach, but he knows what works. So when he watched Kennys Vargas try to avoid a stacked-up defensive shift by gently serving fastballs into left field, the two-year “veteran” took his rookie teammate aside.
“I try to hit it the other way, but Arcia told me, ‘Don’t worry about that, just pull the ball and hit it over the fence,’ ” Vargas said after his third two-hit day of the road trip Wednesday. “ ‘Don’t try to get a hit. We don’t pay you for hits. We pay you for RBI and home runs.’ ”
With the second baseman standing in shallow right field and the shortstop behind second base on Tuesday night, Vargas foiled the shift by not-so-gently placing a fastball into the upper deck of Minute Maid Park
And Wednesday, after righthanded reliever Josh Fields intentionally walked Joe Mauer to pitch to Vargas with the bases loaded, the Puerto Rican slugger waited for the count to reach 3-2, then hammered a line drive into center field, scoring two more runs. So much for the shift.
“He laid off a couple of pitches he had chased earlier in the game … and he stayed on it. He didn’t try to yank it” to right, Gardenhire said. “He stayed on the ball [and hit it] toward the middle of the field.”
Vargas, who has played in all 12 games since he arrived from Class AA New Britain and had a hit in 10 of them, has seemed flustered by defenses that stack him toward right field when he bats lefthanded, Gardenhire said, adding it’s a problem common with rookies.
“I think it definitely gets in their heads. I think their minds start spinning on how they can beat it every once in a while,” Gardenhire said. “I don’t know if he’s trying to beat the shift or he’s just getting beat on pitches. But it looks to me like he’s trying to shoot the ball the other way right now. So I think it’s in his head a little bit.”