Australian Oeltjen, mates make themselves at home at Target Field

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 28, 2011 - 12:17 AM

The former Twins minor leaguer had four hits in a 15-0 shellacking: His first Dodgers home run leading off the fourth, a single in the fifth, a triple in the eighth and a single in the ninth.

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Trent Oeltjen (49) rounded third base after hitting a home run in the fourth inning in the Dodgers' 15-0 rout of the Twins on Monday.

Photo: Gonzalez, Carlos, Star Tribune

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The Twins were taking more interest in the Australian market than most organizations a decade ago. The players signed by scout Howie Norsetter included outfielder Trent Oeltjen in February 2001 and infielder Luke Hughes a year later.

The pair was joined on a big-league field Monday night at Target Field. The matchup favored Oeltjen and his Los Angeles Dodgers mates by a sizable margin.

The final was 15-0 for the Dodgers. At game's end, they were credited with 24 hits to equal the highest total ever against the Twins in a nine-inning game.

There was postgame lobbying from both clubhouses, trying to convince the scorekeeper to change a hard hopper that Twins shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka played off his chest from an error to a hit for Andre Ethier.

The change was made 40 minutes after the game, putting the Dodgers at 25 hits and alone when it comes to smacking hits against the Twins in regulation play.

Oeltjen had four of the hits: His first Dodgers home run leading off the fourth, a single in the fifth, a triple in the eighth and a single in the ninth. He also had a sacrifice fly and walk, reaching base five times, scoring three runs and driving in two.

In the ninth, Oeltjen bounced a ball past first baseman Hughes and it looked for a moment as if he might try for a double to complete a cycle.

"I did a little shuffle around first, but the ball was right at him [right fielder Jason Repko]," Oeltjen said. "I thought, 'No, I won't.'"

A reporter suggested that perhaps Oeltjen stopped because he wanted to spend more time chatting with Hughes.

"My fellow Aussie ... why not?" Oeltjen said. "We're best mates. There are a lot of fellows on that team that I came up with. It was special, to finally make it to Minnesota, and have the game turn out like this for the Dodgers."

Oeltjen spent seven years in the Twins' minor leagues. He was invited to big-league spring training once -- in 2007, which turned out to be his last year with the organization.

"Luke, Denard Span, Nick Blackburn, Joe Mauer ... I played with all those fellows," Oeltjen said. "Great memories."

Oeltjen was lefthanded and mostly a slap hitter during his time with the Twins. "I came over as a 17-year-old and weighed 170 pounds, at the most," he said. "It took me getting away from the Twins to find myself as a hitter, as a player."

Was he suggesting that the Twins wanted him to be a slap hitter?

"No, it was the way I hit when I came here," he said. "I had some success, so I kept doing it. After '07, I was a minor league free agent, and had an offer to come back to the Twins.

"I wanted to move on -- to have a fresh start. And that carried over to my hitting. I had matured, was bigger, and able to drive the ball more."

Oeltjen signed with Arizona during that offseason. He still was stuck in the minors in 2008, but made it to the Diamondbacks for his first 24 big-league games in 2009.

He hit three home runs in 70 at-bats for the D'backs. He had hit a total of 21 home runs in seven seasons in the Twins' system.

Oeltjen was a minor league free agent again that winter and signed with Milwaukee. The Brewers released him on July 2, 2010, from Class AAA. Four days later, he signed with the Dodgers and actually made it to L.A. for 14 games and 30 at-bats last season.

This year, he was tearing it up at Class AAA Albuquerque when the Dodgers called him up on June 10. That put him in Minnesota for the first time on Monday. And there he was in the fourth, reaching the bleachers in right field off his old teammate Blackburn.

Oeltjen was in the lineup in right field because the Dodgers used American League rules to have Ethier as the DH. Oeltjen's 4-for-4 put him at 7-for-20 (.350). In contrast, another 28-year-old -- Joe Mauer -- went 1-for-3 to put his average at .206.

"I played with Joe way back," Oeltjen said. "Believe me. He won't be at .206 too long."

Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on 1500ESPN. • preusse@startribune.com

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