Ron Gardenhire’s opinion sounds more flippant than he meant it, but the manager made a good point about Aaron Hicks’ decision this weekend to return to switch-hitting.
“It’s his career,” Gardenhire said. “He’s got to decide what’s best for him.”
A month ago, Hicks decided that abandoning the lefthanded batter’s box was best, since he was batting only .182, with a .302 slugging percentage, against righthanded pitchers. But Saturday night during his rehab stint at Class AA New Britain, the outfielder decided to switch hit once more, a decision the Twins understand to be permanent. For now.
“Basically, he didn’t feel comfortable [batting] right-on-right,” Gardenhire said. “He wanted to bat lefthanded again. … I think it surprised most people down there.”
The Twins had suggested batting righthanded only, but General Manager Terry Ryan said he’s leaving it up to Hicks, 24. “It’s the right thing to do, to support the player. If he doesn’t have any confidence hitting from the right side against a righthanded pitcher, there’s no sense forcing the issue,” Ryan said. “So now we’ve got to get back to work on the left side.”
Danny Santana had been successful on all six stolen base tries before Sunday, so when he was thrown out by Tyler Flowers in the sixth inning, he was understandably surprised. Actually, he didn’t believe it at all.
Santana stood on second base for more than 20 seconds after being called out, as though expecting umpire Andy Fletcher to come to his senses. Acting manager Terry Steinbach finally emerged from the dugout, just as Fletcher made a “go on, move it” gesture to Santana. As Steinbach walked toward the base, confirmation came from video specialist Sean Harlin that the call was correct. Close, but correct.
“I talked to Danny between innings, and said, ‘I just want you to know, I’ve got your back. But our people said you were out,” Steinbach said of the Dominican infielder. “I always give the guys the benefit of the doubt, because there is the language factor. I hope no one thinks he was trying to show the umpire up. Danny does not do that.”
Actually, Santana said, he assumed the Twins would challenge, so certain was he that Gordon Beckham’s tag was late. He said he had not seen a replay, but was informed that he really was out.
“They said close, close. Hard to tell,” Santana said. And what did the umpire tell him? “He just said, ‘Go walk around,’ ” he said.
Reliever on way out?
The Twins have discussed reducing the bullpen to seven relievers once more, instead of the eight they are carrying now, in order to add another position player to the bench. That means somebody could face demotion, trade or release Monday.
“I really don’t want to stay with that many pitchers for this road trip. We do have 20 games in a row coming up, but we can always go get a pitcher,” Gardenhire said. “I’d like to have an extra bench guy.”
But Ryan, who would have to decide which reliever to jettison, downplayed the idea. “We’re going to go day-by-day. We’ll see how this thing pans out,” Ryan said, pointing out that the Twins lineup has stabilized recently. “How much would [another bench player] play? Probably not much.”
• Third baseman Trevor Plouffe is not expected to require a rehab stint for his sore ribs and could join the team in Texas on Friday, if he is pain-free this week. He is eligible to come off the disabled list next Monday.