The Twins had scored a run and there were runners on second and third with two outs in the first inning on Wednesday at Target Field. Oswaldo Arcia was getting in the lefthanded batter's box when Don Cooper, the White Sox' pitching coach, signaled for time and headed to the mound for a quick discussion with his pitcher.
Righthander Dylan Axelrod was making his 18th big-league start. Presumably, there were two messages from Cooper: Don't throw Arcia a first-pitch fastball in the strike zone, and feature changeups and breaking pitches.
"That's exactly what he was saying to him,'' Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "The scouts have done their work on Arcia. He's getting lots of offspeed pitches, and now he's going to have to adjust.''
Axelrod came inside with his first pitch, then struck out Arcia on slower stuff. Included in this futile at-bat were hacks at two pitches on the ground. He wound up going 0 for 4, with two strikeouts and six runners left on base.
Nobody said it was going to be smooth sailing for the 22-year-old -- not after Arcia split last season between Class A and Class AA, missed most of big-league camp with a pulled muscle, and played only briefly for Class AAA Rochester before getting the call to Minnesota on April 17.
Gardenhire has been playing Arcia most every day, in order to avoid the call from General Manager Terry Ryan that says, "The kid has to go back. He needs regular at-bats.''
There's another reason Arcia seems safe for now:
Darin Mastroianni is way behind in recovering from a foot injury sustained in spring training. With Mastroianni not an option for the forseeable future, there isn't an outfielder on the horizon that Gardenhire would prefer over Arcia.
But that offspeed stuff ... Arcia is going to see more and more of it, until he proves that he can stay back and handle those pitches. For now, the slower the pitch, the worse Arcia has looked with his hacks.
Arcia has used Wilkin Ramirez as an interpreter for most of his interviews this season. I just had a couple of questions and went directly to Arcia.
Cooper's visit? "Changeups, sliders ... that's what he [had to] tell him,'' Arcia said.
And the day-long diet of offspeed pitches? "Yes,'' he said, nodding his head, "It [will be] OK.''
FOOTNOTE: My favorite story about hitters and those irritating offspeed pitches ...
Earl Williams was catching for the Orioles in 1975. Jesse Jefferson was a top pitching prospect (it didn't work out for him) and a hard thrower.
On this night, Jesse was featuring changeups and curveballs, rather than his big fastball. When asked what in the heck was going on, Williams was alleged to have nodded toward the opposing dugout and said:
"If I don't get fastballs, they don't get fastballs.''
Earl just died, by the way. One of the worst defensive catchers imaginable, but he could mash a baseball.
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