Houston’s Jose Altuve sent a hard-hit ground ball down the third base line on Tuesday that had extra-base potential.
Twins third baseman Ehire Adrianza, however, dived to his right and snared the ball before throwing Altuve out at first. Every play Adrianza makes like that is further proof that his surgically repaired left shoulder is holding up.
He had gotten over one mental hurdle at the plate during spring training when he was able to bat righthanded again. But diving for grounders was another checkpoint. And for a utility player like Adrianza, being able to play sturdy defense is the main reason he’s on the team.
But now he’s laid out for a few grounders with no problems.
“I was a little scared about diving,” Adrianza said, “but I did it [Monday] and I did it twice back in Houston, so I feel pretty normal.”
Adrianza actually had two big hits on Monday in the Twins’ 1-0 victory over Houston. In addition to his home run that accounted for the only run of the game, he hit the dirt while trying grab a ground ball hit by Carlos Correa in the first inning.
The checkpoints for Adrianza are not over yet. He still gets treatment on his shoulder, which he was prepared to do since the surgery.
“I still have to do some work in the gym and in the training room to keep it stable,” he said. “They told me it would be six months before it would feel normal. And it will be six months next month. I have to keep doing my exercises.”
Adrianza, who is batting .188 with one homer and two RBI, started at third on Tuesday. Marwin Gonzalez, who began the day batting .167, did not start Tuesday.
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said he believes that Adrianza can contribute at the plate as well. Adrianza batted .333 with three home runs during spring training, and will occasionally drive the ball.
“He swung the bat great in spring training,” Baldelli said. “He swung the bat well the first couple weeks of the season. He didn’t get a ton out of it, didn’t notch a ton of hits, but I mean he put the bat on the ball, he hit some balls hard at people. That’s really all you can ask for.”
Working over pitchers
Twins hitters might not draw a lot of walks, but they have had more than a fair share of lengthy at-bats.
Jorge Polanco on Friday had an 11-pitch at bat. Six Twins had at-bats of at least eight pitches on Saturday. Max Kepler led off the first inning on Tuesday with a seven-pitch walk.
Philadelphia’s Rhys Hoskins entered play Tuesday averaging 4.74 pitches per plate appearance. So, yes, seven-, eight- and 11-pitch at-bats are pretty good.
There’s a cumulative effect of lengthy at-bats on opposing pitchers. They could pay off in the same inning. They could pay off later in the game. While the Twins’ 50 home runs entering Tuesday have been eye-opening, their ability to work over pitchers has been just as surprising.
“Anything to throw them out of their rhythm and just to force them into that sort of mode where they have to put a little something extra into an at-bat,” Baldelli said, “I think it’s just a positive thing for everybody else and our team.”
Parker shows stuff
Despite struggling with the feel for his split-fingered changeup in a couple of early-season outings, reliever Blake Parker has given the Twins what they have needed in the ninth inning.
He gave up an earned run in his Twins debut and took the loss in a 2-1 defeat to Cleveland on March 30. Since then, he’s thrown 8⅓ scoreless innings while holding opponents to a .111 batting average. The only problem is that he’s walked four during that run, but he stranded all of them on base.