Thomas surprised to be back with Twins

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 5, 2013 - 12:32 AM

Clete Thomas, whose last major league game was 13 months ago, is back with the Twins to back up Aaron Hicks in center.

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Twins outfielder Clete Thomas pulled down a catch during spring training in Fort Myers.

Photo: Jerry Holt, Star Tribune

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– Clete Thomas got the news from Class AAA Rochester manager Gene Glynn on Monday morning, as he climbed into a van to go work out.

“He told me to come back inside,” the Red Wings center fielder said. “I thought that was weird, but I went inside and he told me. … It was definitely a surprise.”

A really good one, in fact. Thomas, whose last major league game was 13 months ago, was headed to the Twins, to back up Aaron Hicks in center.

“This time was really exciting, almost as exciting as the first time” he got the news, “because I worked hard for this. … It’s pretty awesome.”

After batting .369 with four home runs in April, while Hicks managed only .116 in the majors and backup Darin Mastroioanni was out because of a broken ankle, Thomas said he tried not to think the Twins never were going to call him up. He just continued to try to change himself back to the hitter he once was, before strikeouts threatened his career.

“That was what we told him when I sent him out — he needed to make adjustment with more balls in play, which gives you a chance to get base hits,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Unless you’re going to be a 40-home run guy, you better put the ball in play. And he went down there, to his credit, he shortened his swing, did some work, and he’s hitting very well.”

Thomas is at .296 for the year with nine home runs, and though he struck out three times Sunday, he has 35 in 36 games. It’s a start.

Thomas fell into a home-run trap, he believes. “I kind of lost track of who I was. I wanted home runs, and that’s not me,” he said. “I’ve got power, but I’m not a home run hitter. I’m more of a gap guy, hit it and run. So I had to find myself again before anything else could be fixed.”

Waiting on Robertson

The Twins don’t know yet whether Tyler Robertson will clear waivers, which would enable them to keep him at Rochester, but considering he is only 25, has decent minor league statistics and, most importantly, is lefthanded, they assume he will be claimed.

Which is too bad, Gardenhire said, but the Twins needed a roster spot for Thomas, and “he was basically next on the list” of players they would consider designating for assignment and removing from the 40-man roster.

Gardenhire said a couple of factors explain the decision. The promotion of Aaron Thompson, another lefty reliever, to Rochester made Robertson expendable, Gardenhire said.

“We watched [Thompson] on TV in my office the other day, and he came in firing pellets,” Gardenhire said.

And Robertson has not been doing the same this year.

“His velocity had gone down to 87, 88 mph,” Gardenhire said. “He could spin the ball, he could still get some people out. But even in spring training, he had no velocity.”

Etc.

• Justin Morneau was back in the lineup Tuesday after a weekend fighting flulike symptoms. “I couldn’t even move on Saturday,” he said of his illness. He’s fine now, the first baseman said — “I’m as 100 percent as 100 percent is this time of year,” he said.

• Morneau was well enough Sunday to serve as host of his annual casino night, which raises money to help children with arthritis. “Our goal was $150,000 and we made a little more than that, so it was really good,” Morneau said. The money raised will go to support the Arthritis Foundation’s Camp Mash program — “Mash” stands for Make Arthritis Stop Hurting — including the establishment of a summer camp in Minnesota, Iowa and the Dakotas.

• Twins radio broadcaster Cory Provus and his wife, Dana, have a son named Cooper, born Monday.

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