Chris Parmelee slowly packed his gear in a quiet, defeated Twins clubhouse on an afternoon in mid-May. The young first baseman looked and sounded emotionally whipped as he addressed reporters after being informed of his demotion to Rochester.
He admitted the pressure of trying to hit big-league pitching got the best of him. He looked overwhelmed at the plate at times, hitting .179 with no home runs and only three RBI. That included a 2-for-31 stretch in May.
He desperately needed a break to clear his head.
"No matter where you're at, it's never fun to [get demoted]," Parmelee said. "But I feel like it benefited me."
Parmelee returned to the Twins on Friday and was back in the lineup at first base and batting sixth against the Chicago Cubs. He went 1-for-3 with a single, two strikeouts and two walks in an 8-7, 10-inning victory at Target Field. He was intentionally walked in the ninth with the winning run on third.
Parmelee earned his promotion after scorching Class AAA pitching in his first stint at that level. He batted .375 with four home runs and 12 RBI in 15 games. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire watched a few Rochester games on TV in recent days and liked what he saw from Parmelee.
"He hit his way back up here," Gardenhire said. "He was sent down, he was scuffling a little bit. He got his confidence back and started swinging the bat. That's what you're supposed to do. He did it the right way. Went down and hit and earned his way back up."
It's nice to see a young player respond in that manner. Parmelee didn't pout or whine or complain about his demotion. He said it's human nature to wonder when he'd get another shot in the majors, but he tried to focus solely on just enjoying the game again.
"I told myself that I'm going to go down, get my work in and have fun," he said. "I tried to be really optimistic and tried to look at the positives that can come out of a situation like that."
It wasn't his first demotion in professional baseball. In 2010, he went from Class AA New Britain to Class A Fort Myers for three weeks to correct a few mechanical flaws in his swing. He said that experience helped him understand the importance of using a demotion to fix problems and develop confidence in a less stressful setting.
"It's kind of hard to explain," he said. "When I was down there [in Rochester], I didn't think too much. I just saw the ball and reacted. When I was up here, I was thinking about a certain pitch in a certain count and stuff like that. You can't play baseball like that. Then you're overthinking. You can't control where the pitcher throws it, when the ball is going to move. All you can control is putting a good swing on a good pitch."
The Twins have high hopes for Parmelee, their first-round pick in 2006. He has a smooth left-handed swing, and the team believes he'll eventually hit for power. He seems like a hard worker who quietly goes about his business and listens to coaches and older players. He just needs experience. And some success.
Parmelee had an impressive audition as a September call-up last season and then made the team out of spring training, bypassing Class AAA in the process. He probably would have benefited from more minor league seasoning, but the team felt comfortable putting him on the big club.
His slow start, however, caused him to start pressing and overanalyzing everything. Eventually he became a mental pretzel.
"Anybody that can skip a level is going to try and do it," he said. "I can't harp on it enough, I need to just go out there and have fun. Not get too technical and not look too far into things. You've got to enjoy this."
He looked just the opposite the last time he was in this position. He knows it, too. He smiled when asked about the pressure he felt as his struggles at the plate multiplied.
"Yeah, I was pressing just a little bit," he said. "To say the least."
An infield single down the third base line in his first at-bat probably felt like a moon shot. He needs more of that in his second opportunity to show he can stick at this level.
"It's the basics, and sometimes you lose track of that," he said. "It was good for me to go down and get some confidence back."
Chip Scoggins • firstname.lastname@example.org