KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Kennys Vargas was on deck Thursday night, waiting to make his major league debut, when Ron Gardenhire made a decision.
“I said right away — he’s playing tomorrow,” the Twins’ manager said. “I just like watching him swing out there.”
That’s as opposed to his current offense lately.
The Twins were limited to three runs by the Royals, but these days that practically rates as an outburst. Kansas City scored six times in its 6-3 victory, something the Twins haven’t done since July 13.
“We’re just missing way too many chances, not coming up with a big hit,” Gardenhire said after the Twins went 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position and lost for the ninth time in 13 games.
Maybe Vargas will help. The slugging first baseman, who has 17 home runs this season but has never played above Class AA, was promoted Thursday in hopes of jump-starting an offense that has averaged 2.54 runs per game since the All-Star break.
“Having another threat, another power bat in that order, could make it more of an interesting lineup,” Rob Antony, the Twins’ assistant general manager, explained of the choice, which came just a few days after Antony’s boss, General Manager Terry Ryan, said Vargas wasn’t ready for a big-league promotion.
Vargas, who arrived just before game time, will make his debut on Friday in Chicago — against White Sox ace Chris Sale, no less — after Thursday’s game ended with him waiting to pinch-hit. “I was a little excited in the on-deck [circle],” said Vargas, who turns 24 on Friday. “I just looked out there and said, ‘Oh, my at-bat’s coming, my at-bat’s coming.’ ” But when Oswaldo Arcia lined out, it didn’t.
Vargas has improved considerably at first base, Gardenhire said he was told by New Britain manager Jeff Smith, and he’ll get a chance to show it now. “Is he totally ready for this?” Gardenhire said of the Puerto Rican slugger. “Who knows? We said the same thing about [Danny] Santana. You just bring him up here and let him take some swings. It’s a good thing to be bringing young kids up here and let them get a taste of this.”
Kevin Correia allowed the Royals just two runs in six innings, a decent recovery from his post-All-Star slump, but the Twins bullpen gave up four more. Caleb Thielbar took the loss for putting two runners on base in the seventh inning, but Ryan Pressly allowed a two-run triple to Alcides Escobar and an RBI single to Jarrod Dyson in Kansas City’s four-run seventh.
The Twins considered offers for Josh Willingham and other players, Antony said, but aside from sending Sam Fuld back to Oakland, heard nothing that enticed them into a trade.
“We always said that we weren’t in a situation where we needed to reduce salary, so unless we got something quality back, we weren’t going to” trade Willingham, Antony said. “There was no salary dump.”
Fuld received word of the impending trade, back to the team with whom he started the season, late Wednesday night, and his departure was made more awkward by the fact that his wife and three kids were in Kansas City with him. They rented a car and set out for Minneapolis on Thursday morning, with Fuld planning to catch a flight to Oakland on Friday.
Fuld spent a little more than three months with the Twins after being claimed on waivers, and was the team’s hottest hitter over the past three weeks, reaching base in 18 of his past 22 games.
His departure leaves the Twins short on experienced center fielders. Their strategy, for the time being? “Stay healthy, Danny Santana,” Antony said.
• Former Twins President Jerry Bell, who presided over world championship teams in 1987 and 1991 and was instrumental in getting Target Field built, will end his 27-year career with the team Friday when he retires from his position as chairman of the team’s executive board. “He has done an awful lot for Twins baseball,” Gardenhire said. “He’s meant a lot to a lot of people here, and was huge in getting the ballpark.”
• Brian Dozier missed Thursday’s game because of a jammed left thumb, suffered when he stole third base one night earlier. He expects to play Friday.