Ben Revere heard whispers that he wasn't ready for major league baseball as he struggled at the plate last season. Too many soft dribblers back to the pitcher led some to wonder if he needed more seasoning in the minors.
"That kind of ticked me off," Revere said. "I [knew] I can play up here. That kind of got me fired up. Right now I'm just like a bulldog, just head-hunting right now."
Not literally, of course. But you get the idea.
Revere's emergence at the top of the Twins lineup helped jump-start the offense the past few months and, more important, gives the organization reason to be optimistic about his ability to produce more than just highlight reel catches in the outfield.
It's probably unrealistic to expect Revere to challenge for the batting title every season -- he should finally reach enough at-bats to qualify among the league leaders this weekend -- but the sample size this season is too large to be considered a fluke. His 21-game hitting streak that ended Wednesday -- and .323 batting average -- didn't just happen by accident.
Now if the Twins would quit delaying the obvious and move Revere to center and put Denard Span in right field ...
"Denard is our center fielder," Revere said.
Whether that alignment changes this offseason or not, Revere has secured his spot in the outfield going forward. He gives the Twins lineup some juice at the plate, on the bases and in the field. He's a 5-9 bundle of energy who plays each game as if it's his first in a major league uniform.
That's just his nature anyway, but he also finds inspiration in Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera.
"He seems like he's having fun all the time," Revere said. "I'm just like, why can't I do that? I should be doing that. I think it kind of helps a little bit. Stay loose so you won't be so uptight. Take some of the stress off yourself."
Success can have the same effect. Revere has benefited from tweaks he made to his swing after pinpointing the problem while studying himself on film this offseason. He identified a technical flaw that created a longer swing, which, in turn, caused him to get jammed more and hit too many weak grounders.
"Now, I'm just driving it," he said. "I'm hitting the ball right on the barrel and driving it."
The results are fairly dramatic. He's made better contact, hit more line drives and showed signs of being a more polished hitter. The Twins still would like to see him draw more walks by being more patient. Revere understands that thinking, but he doesn't want to sacrifice any of his aggressiveness in the process.
"People tell me, 'You've got to be patient up there,'" he said. "OK, but then I start taking the best pitch I want. That's when I start striking out. I mean, I'm patient. A lot of pitchers challenge me. They give me pitches to hit every time. They're throwing it right there and just seeing what I'm going to do with it. I'll be patient when I need to be, but if you're going to lay it right there, I'm going to take a hack at it."
That philosophy has worked for him at every stage. Revere hit .326 combined at five different minor league stops. The guy can hit. He should be able to put added pressure on defenses once he gets more comfortable laying down a bunt.
Revere has seven bunt hits this season compared to four last season, but he could utilize that part of his game even more to take advantage of his speed -- he ran the 40 in 4.3 seconds in high school. Revere worked on bunting with Hall of Famer Rod Carew at 7:30 a.m. every day in spring training.
"If I had the ability to bunt like Rod Carew it would be even more crazy," he said. "I'm trying to get to that point. When I do, it will be a lot of fun."
Revere is only 24. His game will continue to develop and evolve. His arm probably will always be a liability in the outfield, but he makes up for that deficiency by using his speed to chase down balls that would otherwise drop for hits.
Now, he's demonstrating that he can hit at this level, too. Enough to become a consistent .300 hitter?
"With his speed and if he keeps swinging the way he is, he can be one of those guys," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He can get hits lots of different ways. But I don't like to put tags on guys. We know Joe Mauer is a .300 hitter. He has a beautiful swing and fantastic eye at the plate. Ben is a little different than that. He's a hacker. He's a swinger. So there's a different way to hit .300, and he's proving that right now. Whether he can continue that and do that for a long time, we'll see."
Chip Scoggins firstname.lastname@example.org