Center field: Twins scrambling to fill what used to be solid

Unsteadiness is now the only constant of a position once known for depth within the organization.

 

– It has been the year of the center fielder for the Twins. And not in a good way.

An organization that was building a legacy of strong center field play has been relegated to scouring the waiver wire for options this season and using a natural shortstop in the position.

Their latest example is their addition of former Braves outfielder Jordan Schafer, who was claimed off waivers Sunday. It’s the second time this season the Twins claimed a center fielder off waivers to address a need on their roster.

How did the Twins get to this point? They went from Kirby Puckett (1984-95) to Torii Hunter (1997-2007) to Carlos Gomez (2008-09). First-round picks Denard Span, Ben Revere, Aaron Hicks and Byron Buxton were all in the organization at the same time. They were covered, or so it seemed.

“We have been fortunate to have had some very reliable center fielders as you pointed out,” said Rob Antony, Twins assistant general manager. “This has been a different year but the positive is that Sam Fuld had an opportunity to play and he produced, which made him valuable.”

Fuld was claimed off waivers April 20 and played 53 games for the Twins before being traded Thursday to Oakland, the team that waived him. Once Schafer steps into center for the Twins, he will become the seventh player the Twins have used there, the most since 1995. At least they will have a true center fielder on the 25-man roster.

The Twins put themselves in this pickle with a series of moves.

They traded Gomez to Milwaukee for J.J. Hardy in 2009. In a span of about a week in 2012 they dealt Span to Washington for Alex Meyer and Ben Revere to Philadelphia for Trevor May and Vance Worley. They were desperate for starting pitching upgrades at the time, but it cost the Twins center field depth. Righthanders Meyer and May both are on the verge of their major league debuts.

The transient state of the position was evident in spring training, when they lost Alex Presley to Houston on waivers as they maneuvered to make room for infielder Jason Bartlett and others on the 40-man roster. Bartlett ended up retiring less than a month into the season.

When they claimed Fuld, they needed to make room on the 40-man roster for him. They tried to sneak Darin Mastroianni, another center fielder, through waivers but lost him to Toronto.

Quite the body count this season.

One happy accident is that is that Danny Santana has gotten a chance to flash his tantalizing skill set in center field — despite having played only 25 games there in his minor league career.

A natural shortstop, Santana went off Sunday in the Twins’ 16-3 victory over the White Sox, going 5-for-6 and finishing a homer shy of the cycle. He’s batting .306 for the season. What’s mind-bending is that, if he had enough at-bats to qualify, his on base-plus-slugging percentage of .816 would be fourth among center fielders and third among shortstops.

“I feel good,” Santana said. “I feel comfortable at both positions.”

To get out of this mess, the Twins need Hicks to click and Buxton to stop getting injured.

The Opening Day center fielder in 2013 and 2014 was Hicks, who has looked overmatched at the plate in the major leagues. A switch hitter, Hicks is batting .194 through 129 career games. He flirted with batting righthanded only a month into the season but, when he returned to the minors, decided to return to hitting from both sides of the plate.

“We hoped that Hicksey would take off and run with it and it has been a struggle with him,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “All the other guys are basically fill-ins, so you are looking for someone to take over. We just haven’t had anyone do that until Santana right now.”

  • TWINS VS. SAN DIEGO 7:10 p.m. Tuesday • Target Field • TV: FSN (96.3-FM)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Tampa 6 FINAL
Philadelphia 2
LA Clippers 96 FINAL
Chicago 86
Cleveland 103 FINAL
Houston 105
Golden State 106 FINAL
Boston 101
Philadelphia 74 FINAL
Indiana 94
Portland 110 FINAL
Sacramento 99
Charlotte 98 FINAL
Orlando 83
Oklahoma City 108 FINAL
LA Lakers 101
New Orleans 99 FINAL
Denver 92
Los Angeles 2 FINAL
Winnipeg 5
Tampa Bay 3 FINAL
Florida 4
Columbus 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh 5
Toronto 0 FINAL
Washington 4
Anaheim 3 FINAL
Dallas 1
St. Louis 5 FINAL(SO)
Vancouver 6
SMU 73 FINAL
Connecticut 81
Quinnipiac 65 FINAL
Manhattan 69
Fairfield 56 FINAL
Niagara 57
Marist 49 FINAL
Rider 59
Iona 60 FINAL
Saint Peters 68
Oregon State 56 FINAL
California 73
South Florida 55 FINAL
Houston 72
Marquette 66 FINAL
Providence 77
Michigan State 61 FINAL
Wisconsin 68
Siena 57 FINAL
Monmouth 63
Pittsburgh 66 FINAL
Wake Forest 69
Oregon 73 FINAL
Stanford 70
Purdue 61 FINAL
Ohio State 65
Arizona State 81 FINAL
Colorado 87
Washington St 67 FINAL
UCLA 72
Georgetown 66 FINAL
Providence 81
Binghamton 50 FINAL
UMBC 73
Elon 65 FINAL
Hofstra 58
Virginia Tech 47 FINAL
Boston College 49
(8) Louisville 59 FINAL
Virginia 75
Texas 69 FINAL
West Virginia 76
Creighton 53 FINAL
Villanova 61
Seton Hall 85 FINAL
Butler 76
UNC-Wilmington 76 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 65
(5) Maryland 69 FINAL
(25) Northwestern 48
Saint Josephs 67 FINAL
La Salle 55
Louisiana Tech 53 FINAL
TX-San Antonio 60
Rhode Island 70 FINAL
Massachusetts 78
Richmond 55 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 49
Davidson 46 FINAL
Fordham 54
St Bonaventure 43 FINAL
Duquesne 51
George Mason 45 FINAL
(22) George Washington 80
Indiana 60 FINAL
(20) Rutgers 71
(12) Texas A&M 63 FINAL
LSU 80
Ole Miss 47 FINAL
(11) Miss State 55
Clemson 56 FINAL
Pittsburgh 61
Maine 47 FINAL
New Hampshire 61
Vermont 48 FINAL
Albany 76
Quinnipiac 87 FINAL
Monmouth 48
Saint Peters 47 FINAL
Siena 64
(4) Notre Dame 67 FINAL
NC State 60
Wisconsin 62 FINAL
Penn State 56
Stony Brook 49 FINAL
Hartford 56
Northeastern 47 FINAL
William & Mary 62
St Johns 61 FINAL
Xavier 74
James Madison 74 FINAL
Delaware 71
Towson 45 FINAL
Drexel 50
Illinois State 50 FINAL
Bradley 60
Southern Ill 74 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 70
Northern Iowa 54 FINAL
Wichita State 66
Minnesota 76 FINAL
(17) Iowa 92
(15) North Carolina 80 FINAL
(16) Duke 81
Alabama 73 FINAL
Auburn 80
(9) Florida State 69 FINAL
Miami-Florida 55
Arkansas 41 FINAL
Missouri 57
Georgia 52 FINAL
Florida 45
Dayton 95 FINAL
Saint Louis 68
Drake 57 FINAL
Missouri State 86
Colorado 46 FINAL
(10) Arizona State 59
(19) Stanford 55 FINAL
Oregon 62
Marquette 82 FINAL
DePaul 99
Southern Miss 66 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 60
Vanderbilt 49 FINAL
(6) Tennessee 79
(2) South Carolina 56 FINAL
(13) Kentucky 67
Utah 41 FINAL
Arizona 64
Ohio State 78 FINAL
Nebraska 60

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: With Adrian Peterson's suspension overturned, what should the Vikings do?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close