Reusse: Lost weekend puts focus on festering outfield issues

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 26, 2014 - 11:49 AM
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Twins right fielder Chris Colabello sat on the bench at AT&T Park during Sunday's game against the Giants. Colabello was sent down to Class AAA Rochester after the game.

Photo: Jerry Holt, Star Tribune

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The Twins came into AT&T Park having won four of five and edged to two games over .500 at 23-21. Leadoff hitter Brian Dozier saw a fastball from San Francisco starter Tim Lincecum and drilled it into left field for a double.

Life looked promising for Minnesota’s athletes of summer after the first pitch of the weekend. The action that took place over the next 785 pitches sent the Twins careening downhill as if the Giants’ playground was located on Lombard Street.

Dozier tried to time Lincecum’s delivery and execute a no-out steal of third. He left early, Lincecum stepped off the mound and the Twins trailed 3-0 before the end of the first.

There was a 6-2 loss on Friday, a 2-1 loss in which the Twins were mystified by Ryan Vogelsong on Saturday, and finally came Sunday’s 8-1 loss in which Twins starter Ricky Nolasco went from being unlucky in the first to being pounded by the fifth.

The overmatched Twins were sent crawling home, under .500 and 0-3 to start this stretch of 20 games in 20 consecutive days.

The Twins outfield has been a mess for much of the season, with a hapless hitter, Aaron Hicks, in center field and often surrounded by shortstops or first basemen. Sunday, it was two shortstops (Eduardo Nunez in left and Danny Santana in center) and one first baseman (Chris Parmelee in right).

Santana gave up on a fly ball and allowed it to drop for a hit to open the Giants’ first. Nunez then butchered a fly ball and, presto, it was 2-0 for the home team.

Postgame, the announcement came that Josh Willingham and Oswaldo Arcia would rejoin the Twins on Monday at Target Field.

Willingham is sure to be in left field and Arcia in right. And what about center?

“Hicks is our center fielder …” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We’ve just got to keep working with him. That’s our goal here, we’ve got to make him better.”

Big raises for everyone on the coaching staff if that happens.

The accompanying moves on the 25-player roster were to send Chris Colabello and Chris Herrmann to Class AAA Rochester. Colabello departs as the Twins’ RBI leader for the season with 30.

Colabello played in 20 games from March 31 to April 23 and batted .346, with nine doubles, three home runs and 26 RBI. He played in 20 games from April 24 to May 23 and batted .110 with a double, a home run and four RBI.

Gardenhire mentioned Colabello’s lack of playing time recently and his need for at-bats. Of course, the lack of playing time was a direct result of Colabello’s sudden turn from a force to ineptitude.

“I don’t know if anyone else noticed, but in the past 30 days I must have fouled off 50 pitches,” Colabello said. “When I’m swinging the bat well, I don’t hit many foul balls.

“I had pitches to hit. You always get pitches to hit. I’ve been fouling them back.”

Colabello split time between Rochester and the Twins last season. At Rochester, he was hitting out of a radically closed stance and put up numbers that made him the International League’s MVP. At Minnesota, big-league pitchers saw that approach, pitched him inside and he struck out incessantly.

Colabello, who bats righthanded, opened his stance for this season, made the team as a long shot in spring training, and became an April phenomenon. The opposition kept going in with fastballs, in the belief those would be the best answer for getting him out.

“Chris got beat in there a few times in big situations, and I think that made him too ‘inside’ conscious,” hitting coach Tom Brunansky said. “He was protecting in there and that caused him to miss some pitches out over the plate that he can drive.”

It’s easy to say Colabello had his run and don’t look for him to be back, but there’s also this:

Jason Kubel and Parmelee, two lefties, are basically the same player. The Twins need a righthanded hitter on the bench more than a lefthander.

Of course, there’s a greater need for a player who can take center field on a daily basis, and the Twins don’t have one of those, either.

 

Patrick Reusse can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on AM-1500. preusse@startribune.com

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