Most baseball players, by the time they reach the majors, have figured out how to handle a bad day. Sunday, Scott Diamond pitched poorly and shrugged. Pedro Hernandez, whose next start might determine whether he remains in the big leagues, left the clubhouse wearing a large, blue, floppy hat, the giveaway to the Mother’s Day crowd.
Glen Perkins wanted to talk hockey. And Ron Gardenhire, who has been through many of these games, spoke optimistically about his team, saying, “I like what’s going on in that clubhouse.”
A 6-0 loss to Baltimore left the Twins at 17-17, and the team’s core players are right to blow off a bad day at the diamond. But there is a group of Twins who might want to start looking over their shoulders.
The best news for the Twins so far in 2013 is that they’ve pretty much stunk. They’re playing .500 baseball even though their rotation ranks near the worst in the majors in ERA, their lineup has disappointed and their celebrated rookie, Aaron Hicks, is hitting .137.
Survival is a skill the Twins lacked while losing 195 games the past two seasons. This year’s team is hanging tough while waiting for Mike Pelfrey to find his command, Kyle Gibson to arrive and the best hitters on the team to get hot.
Veterans included in the team’s long-term plans, such as Glen Perkins and Joe Mauer, have the right to feel encouraged.
Many of the Twins’ millennials should feel threatened. They should recognize that this season could be their last chance to audition for a roster that will be transformed over the next two years, with the addition of the best class of young players the franchise has seen in decades, if ever.
Trevor Plouffe is a former first-round pick who turns 27 in June. He’s hitting .239. His career average is .232. His career on-base percentage is .297. He has yet to prove he can hold down third base defensively. He has a few months to prove he belongs in the majors before Miguel Sano bumps him from his position, if not the roster.
Brian Dozier is a former eighth-round pick who turns 26 on Wednesday. He’s hitting .226 with an on-base percentage of .270. He’s played well at second base but is not a leadoff hitter and might not be an everyday player once Eddie Rosario arrives. He’ll need to prove he can hit big-league pitching to have a role.
Chris Parmelee is a former first-round pick who is 25. He’s hitting .214 with a .301 on-base percentage. He’s turned himself into a quality right fielder but will need to get on base and produce power to hold down a corner spot in the big leagues, especially with Oswaldo Arcia swinging the bat in anger.
Vance Worley is a former third-round pick by the Phillies acquired in the Ben Revere trade to become part of the Twins’ planned rotation transformation. He’ll turn 26 in September. He’s 1-4 with a team-worst 7.15 ERA. He figured to be at the bottom of a future rotation that should feature Alex Meyer, Trevor May, Gibson and Diamond, and eventually Jose Berrios. If he can’t improve dramatically, he’ll find himself in the minors and removed from the Twins’ blueprints.
Those four players could become important parts of a competitive season. Through 34 games, they’ve done little other than make the Twins’ brain trust wish their best prospects were closer to making major league debuts.
For two years, the Twins were so incompetent they had no reason not to give lengthy tryouts to any player possessing a smidgen of promise. By next year, there will be little room on the roster for mediocrity.
If you’re a Twins millennial who has yet to prove himself in the big leagues, now would be a good time to make a good second impression.
Jim Souhan can be heard weekdays at noon and Sundays from 10 to noon on 1500 ESPN. His Twitter name is @SouhanStrib. • firstname.lastname@example.org