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Stopgap help sought in center as Hicks continues to struggle

  • Article by: La Velle E. Neal III
  • Star Tribune
  • June 4, 2014 - 6:31 AM

– Although Sam Fuld is close to beginning a minor league rehabilitation assignment, the Twins have been checking around the league for center field help.

It’s another sign the Twins might be looking for a way to get Aaron Hicks down to Class AAA Rochester, where he can work on his swing and get used to batting righthanded all the time after giving up switch-hitting during the last homestand.

Even before Hicks announced his decision May 26 to stop switch hitting, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire had begun to sit him down against certain righthanded pitchers because he’s not used to seeing breaking balls from them on that side of the plate. Trying to make that adjustment in the major leagues is difficult, especially for a young player.

“If you are scuffling a little and you change to righthanded hitting, some of these pitchers are filthy,” Gardenhire said. “I like the way [Danny] Santana is swinging right now. Right now, we’re not scoring, so I’m trying to get offense in there and that’s why Hicks is on the bench.”

Hicks is batting .190 in 43 games, so Santana is getting a shot — although he’s a shortstop disguised as a center fielder.

“[Santana is] a fun player to watch play baseball,” Gardenhire said. “He just brings some life to the game, brings some lightning. He has a lot of talent. Now we just have to harness it.”

The Twins would need the right fit in center, likely a stopgap player because top prospect Byron Buxton could be a factor there as early as next season. He’s currently nursing an injured left wrist.

It’s been a harrowing season for center fielders in the Twins organization. They lost Alex Presley and Darin Mastroianni on waivers. Hicks and Fuld have had concussions. Santana and Eduardo Escobar, another infielder, have had to play center.

Fuld went through a full workout once again Tuesday at Target Field, which included batting practice on the field. Fuld, out since May 8 because of a concussion, will take batting practice with the team Wednesday. If that goes well for a few days, the Twins will send Fuld out on a minor league rehabilitation assignment.

Draft update

The Twins are looking at up to eight players as a potential selection with the fifth overall pick of the first-year player draft Thursday.

They indicated in May that they were looking at five or six players. But now they want to make sure they have every possible scenario covered as draft day nears. Draft meetings began at Target Field over the weekend, and the Twins have made adjustments to their top-10 rankings in recent days.

A couple of mock drafts have the Twins selecting Olympia (Fla.) High School shortstop Nick Gordon, the son of former major league pitcher Tom Gordon, with their first-round pick.

Etc.

• Still no baseball activities for Buxton, who is resting a sprained left wrist he injured during spring training, then aggravated in early May. Brad Steil, the Twins’ director of minor league operations, said Buxton’s wrist has improved, but not to the point where he can start swinging a bat. So Buxton remains on a cardio-only program at Fort Myers, Fla., while waiting for all the soreness to go away before he even picks up a bat.

• A man was carried off on a stretcher after falling into the home bullpen, delaying the start of the eighth inning. Officials said the fan was conscious and alert after falling from the concourse, which is at least 15 feet above the bullpen and lined with a metal railing roughly four feet high.

 

The Associated Press contributed to this notebook.

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