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New Twins outfielder Schafer's speed turns heads

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER
  • Star Tribune
  • August 6, 2014 - 6:39 AM

Jordan Schafer, who had one single in July for the Braves, lined a fastball to right field in his first at-bat as a Twin on Tuesday night. Then he did something that makes his manager happy: He took off for second base.

“I don’t know a whole heck of a lot about him, but the thing that jumped out was 88 [career] stolen bases,” Ron Gardenhire said of the Twins’ new outfielder. “That a runner.”

It’s 89 now, because Schafer, claimed on waivers by the Twins on Sunday, was safe. It’s a sequence that the 27-year-old Florida native hopes repeats itself over and over.

“Stealing bases, I’ve been extremely successful,” said Schafer, who has been thrown out just twice this season, an 88 percent success rate. “But I think to this point in my career, I’ve underachieved at the plate.”

That’s probably true, considering he was once considered one of the Braves’ top prospects. But given only sporadic playing time, Schafer’s career has mostly fizzled. He was hitting well last year, but a broken ankle spoiled his season, and this year, he’s been limited to pinch-hitting and defensive replacement duty for the Braves. “The at-bats weren’t coming, so it’s been hard,” said Schafer, who hasn’t had an RBI since May 18, or an extra-base hit since June 18, and hasn’t homered since June 2013. “It’s frustrating, but I’m happy for the change of scenery, and I’m happy to be here.”

Gardenhire is, too, because Schafer’s presence gives him a chance to give Danny Santana a few more starts at shortstop, the position the Twins project him to play eventually. And Schafer, a third-round pick of the Braves in 2005, gives the Twins a dose of outfield defense they lost when they traded Sam Fuld to Oakland last Thursday.

Actually, center field has been a headache for the Twins since they traded Denard Span and Ben Revere two years ago. Schafer’s headache in Atlanta was a lack of at-bats, he said, because he couldn’t break into an outfield of Justin Upton, B.J. Upton and Jason Heyward. Without at-bats, he never got going at the plate; without production, he couldn’t earn more at-bats.

“Nobody wants to be designated [for assignment], but I think we were at a point in Atlanta where I said quite a few times how I would like more playing time,” Schafer said. “Obviously, this is a big opportunity for me.”

Etc.

•  Tommy Milone, acquired from the A’s at the trade deadline last week, allowed one run over seven innings in his debut in the Twins’ organization, but took the loss in Rochester’s 1-0 defeat at Louisville. Milone threw 94 pitches, gave up six hits and walked two while striking out three.

• Aaron Hicks was promoted to Class AAA Rochester on Tuesday, in hopes he can continue the improvement — .297 with four home runs in 43 games — that he showed at Class AA New Britain. “We wanted to get him going, and we got him going,” said General Manager Terry Ryan. “Now he’s ready for Triple-A.”

• Gardenhire said he’s not ready to announce the Twins’ starting pitcher for Saturday’s game at Oakland, a spot left vacant when Logan Darnell was sent down on Sunday. Class AAA prospect Trevor May would be in line for the start and might be a possibility, or it could remain within the current staff, with Antony Swarzak making another spot start.

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