BOSTON — Paul Molitor’s job just got a lot tougher. But he said he doesn’t blame Derek Falvey and Thad Levine for that.
The Twins are selling off pieces to other teams now, essentially giving up on the 2018 season in hopes of improving the 2022 season instead, but the games don’t stop. Molitor is left with the task of competing with a depleted lineup.
“These guys are mindful of short term, but also have their eyes on the future. They’re doing the job that they feel they’ve been hired to do,” Molitor said of Falvey, the Twins’ chief baseball office, and Levine, the general manager. “I respect it. I did last year. And it’s our job in here to take care of the people that are here and try to get the most out of the group that we have on any given day.”
First, though, he’s trying to process the loss of players he had grown close to. Eduardo Escobar, for instance, “is the heart and soul of the team,” Molitor said. “Press, I’ve know him for a long time. … Two guys who have served the Twins very well. Hopefully they’ll go help those teams do what they are being brought in to do.”
That will make the next few days nerve-racking, as he waits for the trade deadline to pass on Tuesday, and the next two months an exercise in getting positives out of a negative situation. The Twins are only six games below .500, for instance, with a lot of Royals and Tigers and White Sox still on the schedule.
“It’s a little bit of transition time. So we’re going to figure out a way to rally ourselves through it,” Molitor said. “[When] you have a chance to manage people, your relationships get special over time. But you’re going to have to find a way collectively to deal with it.”
Lost in everything else that went on Friday was the fact that Eddie Rosario played the infield for the first time in his major-league career, and third base for the first time as a professional. Not only played the position, but made a spectacular defensive play there, too.
With Eduardo Escobar gone and Miguel Sano not yet arrived, Molitor was left with few options when he chose to pinch-hit for Ehire Adrianza in the eighth inning. So he called upon Rosario, who was a second baseman for parts of four seasons during his minor-league career, but had become a full-time outfielder by the time he reached the big leagues.
Rosario hasn’t forgotten his infield roots, though. “He’s out there [during batting practice] every now and then,” Molitor said. “When he takes grounders, he doesn’t want them right at him, he wants to make hard plays. And tonight, he had to make a hard play.”
Sure did. when Sandy Leon came to the plate with one out in the ninth inning, Rosario was shifted several feet toward the shortstop position. But Leon hit a Fernando Rodney pitch off the end of his bat, sending a chopper down the third base line.
Rosario hustled over, gloved the ball, and while running toward foul territory, fired a throw across his body that beat Leon by a step. Rosario grinned as he took his position again.
“How about that?” Molitor marveled. “He just showed athleticism.”
It’s not easy finding good news for the Twins, at least the 2018 version, in Friday’s activity, but this might qualify: Lance Lynn got through six innings, made only one glaring mistake, and felt optimistic that he’s going to turn his season around.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that it’ll be for the Twins.
Still, Lynn grooved a fastball to Jackie Bradley that wound up atop the Green Monster, but was otherwise a puzzle that the Red Sox couldn’t solve. He gave up seven hits, but walked only one batter, the first time this month that’s true.
“I’ve been talking with G [pitching coach Garvin Alston] and we’ve been going over some stuff lately, and went back to some stuff from the past,” Lynn said, without elaborating on his adjustments. “Might have figured some things out tonight, in between last start and this one. I’m looking forward to building off of it.”
He’s got a wealth of postseason experience, less than $4 million left on his contract and no deal for next year, so the Twins may get a few calls on him this weekend.