Reusse: Carroll aspires to be more than 'Day Game' Jamey

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 16, 2013 - 7:27 AM

The veteran infielder is filling his role and remaining prepared to do more.

Jamey Carroll was at second base and making his 11th start Wednesday. He went 3-for-5 with two runs scored and an RBI. He also made all the available plays, which couldn’t be said for the other infielder Twins manager Ron Gardenhire put in his “day game’’ lineup.

Eduardo Escobar was at third base in place of Trevor Plouffe. Escobar homered in the second inning, which was peachy, but then allowed Jeff Keppinger’s playable ball to get past him for a two-out, two-run double to break open the game in the seventh.

The White Sox went ahead 7-4 on Escobar’s botched play. The final was 9-4, and Chicago (17-21) moved closer to the Twins (18-19) in what’s destined to be an emotional, summer-long battle for fourth place in the American League Central.

Asked about his three-hit day, Carroll said: “It was a day that I contributed a little bit, but what did it mean? We got beat today and lost the series.’’

Carroll signed a two-year deal with the Twins in November 2011. He would turn 38 that Feb. 18, but he carried such a reputation for his conditioning that the Twins advertised him as the starting shortstop for 2012.

Carroll played the first 27 games at shortstop. On May 7, rookie Brian Dozier was inserted at shortstop and Carroll moved to second.

He started 64 games at second, 36 at shortstop and 30 at third base. He finished with career highs of 537 plate appearances and 470 at-bats. Those exceeded totals of 534 and 463 as a 32-year-old in Colorado in 2006.

Carroll batted .268 with an on-base percentage of .343. By comparison, Dozier was .234 and .271.

This did not assist Carroll when Dozier became his second-base competition in the Grapefruit League this spring. Once Dozier showed that he was adept defensively at second base, the job was his and Carroll was back in the utility role that has marked much of his career.

Carroll had 36 starts and 151 plate appearances after Game 37 of 2012. On Wednesday, the totals were 11 starts and 52 plate appearances.

He was quickly in his civilian clothes and ready to leave the clubhouse when he was asked for a moment. The first question was about the three hits, and then I did some fishing.

Q: How are you holding up?

Carroll, after a few seconds of staring: “What do you mean?’’

Q: Not playing much … you’ve been through this before, I guess?

Carroll: “Not so much the last three years, but, yeah, I’ve been through it. When I’m not in there, I do all I can to stay ready.’’

Q: What changes when it comes to readiness?

Carroll: “When you’re not in the lineup that day, you work at all three positions pregame. When you’re playing, you spend the time getting ready at one position.’’

(Pause). “I also hit as much as I can when not playing. The hardest part is trying to stay sharp as a hitter.’’

(Pause). “It’s not the worst job.’’

True enough.

Carroll at 39 is the oldest infielder in the major leagues — older by a birthday than the injured Derek Jeter, as well as Miguel Tejada, Mark DeRosa and John McDonald.

“I don’t feel any different physically now than I have for the past several years,’’ Carroll said. “My goal is to work hard enough to stay a player who can contribute.’’

The Twins have been in a search for a leadoff hitter since early on, when rookie Aaron Hicks was overwhelmed by big-league pitching. Dozier has been there for 17 games and has proved wanting.

On Wednesday, Carroll led off for the sixth time. Tough to quibble with a double and two singles.

Gardenhire opened his postgame remarks by mentioning Carroll’s “nice day at the plate.’’ He also expressed his fondness for having Carroll in the lineup for “day games,’’ meaning weekday matinees and Sundays.

The manager’s quote about playing him in “day games’’ was relayed to Carroll by a TV reporter, perhaps expecting an enthused response.

“I don’t know,’’ said Carroll, staring again at a questioner.

Carroll does know, of course … knows that he still expects more of himself at 39 than being in the lineup 30 percent of the time.

 

Patrick Reusse can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on AM-1500.

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