SAN FRANCISCO – He’s not sure how much it shows up in scouting reports, but Chris Parmelee possesses a baseball skill that’s just as well developed as his power stroke and his throwing arm: packing.
“It’s one of my five tools,” the Twins outfielder and first baseman said with a laugh. “It takes a lot of experience to be professional packers like everybody in [this clubhouse] is. I’ll bet everybody in here can pack up and move to another city in about 30 minutes.”
Of course, Parmelee didn’t even have that much notice when he rejoined the Twins two weeks ago, since he was on a road trip through Ohio with the Class AAA Rochester Red Wings when the summons came. He rode the Red Wings’ bus from Columbus to Toledo, and the Twins sent a Town Car to bring him to Detroit, where they were playing the Tigers. Then it was on to Minneapolis, and now the West Coast, where the Twins open a three-game series with the Giants on Friday night — all still living out of the suitcase he packed almost a month ago.
Not, he wants it made perfectly clear, that he’s complaining.
“You can’t worry about any of that. You just have to get into your normal routine and get to work. You can figure the other stuff out later,” the 26-year-old Californian said. “If you’re not focused on your job, none of that will matter anyway.”
Focus always has been the Twins’ hang-up with Parmelee, a first-round draft pick in 2006 who has bounced between Minnesota and the minor leagues for four consecutive years now. The prevailing opinion is that Parmelee, who has a habit of crushing Class AAA pitching, overthinks his game once he puts on a big-league uniform, cramming his mind with hours of video and nonstop numbers.
Parmelee came to the realization last month, he says, that conventional wisdom about him might have been right.
“In Rochester, I just went out and did my thing. Not thinking about statistics or anything. You know, sometimes guys get caught up in stats — it’s hard not to, especially here, when they blow up your stats on the Jumbotron in crystal-HD-vision,” he said. “But it’s not about those numbers, really. They don’t matter. It’s all about winning, about helping your team do well. And if you win, at the end of the year, your stats are going to be there.”
His stats slowly have come around during this stint with the Twins, although his emphasis (upon the Twins’ advice) on not taking too many pitches has cut his walk rate; his on-base percentage is only .279. But he’s also clubbed three home runs, and all three have come with the score tied, in games the Twins eventually won by a run or two. On a team that ranks 13th in the AL in home runs, those clutch blasts are especially welcome.
“He’s swinging the bat. Big things happen when you swing and be aggressive,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He was taking a lot of pitches, locking himself up, and now he’s swinging.”
But he took a painful detour to get to this point. After playing 101 games with the Twins last year, and knowing he was out of options, Parmelee came to spring training fully expecting to make the team. He had a strong first week but then skidded, and the Twins finally decided to send him to Rochester, knowing that any team could swipe him.
“I thought there was a 50-50 chance” of that happening, assistant general manager Rob Antony said. “He’s a former first-round pick, and there were some teams that need first basemen. But they must have looked at him and said, ‘He’s not better than what we’ve got.’ ”
Parmelee, stunned by the demotion, got emotional when Gardenhire and Antony called him into the manager’s office and informed him of their decision.
“He basically said it himself — he said: ‘Early in spring, when I was getting lots of at-bats, I was swinging well. But when you took the at-bats away, I just lost my swing,’ ” Gardenhire said of that meeting. “Well, you’re telling me why you’re not going to make my team. I have a starting lineup, and you would come off the bench. So basically, he said when he doesn’t get the swings, he’s not effective. I just let him vent.”
The disappointment didn’t fade in Rochester, but Parmelee began taking it out on pitchers. He smacked seven home runs in just 32 games, a couple of them tape-measure blasts, and batted .305 with a .378 on-base percentage. “I just didn’t like where I was at. I’m a firm believer that Triple-A is not a stopping point. I didn’t want to be there, so I didn’t let myself get comfortable,” he said. “It kind of lit a fire.”
That fire is still lit, he said. He’s living in a hotel, hasn’t had time to apartment hunt, his wife, Amanda, and 20-month-old son, Jack, are in California waiting for the Twins to head home, his car is somewhere in transit to Minnesota (he hopes), and he’s got nothing but baseball on his mind.
And he couldn’t be much happier.
“I feel like I’ve matured over the past couple of months. I can handle whatever comes. So maybe, from that standpoint, [getting sent down] is a positive,” Parmelee said.