Twins players make winter ball trade, Venezuelan style

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 28, 2014 - 6:38 AM

Oswaldo Arcia has been traded, and he’s delighted by it. He gets to play closer to home.

No, the slugging right fielder is not leaving the Twins. But when the season ends and winter ball begins, Arcia will suit up for Caribes de Anzoategui, a Venezuelan League team located in Puerto la Cruz. Arcia, his younger brother Orlando, who is an infielder in the Brewers’ system, and three other players were packaged in a deal completed last month with Tigres de Aragua in order to let the major leaguers spend more time near their homes this winter.

So what did Caribes receive in return? White Sox outfielder Avisail Garcia and Twins shortstop Eduardo Escobar. “We got better deal,” Escobar said, certain his words would be heard across the clubhouse.

The players arranged for the deal, and the teams went along, because it encourages Venezuelans in the major leagues not to sit out winter ball. Escobar said he spent nearly two months last winter living in an apartment in Puerto la Cruz, about six hours from his home near Maracay, in order to play for Caribes. Now? “I can be home in about 10 minutes,” he said. “I can stay home with my family.”

Still, both Escobar and Arcia say they intend to limit their time in the Venezuelan League this winter, following a long season in which both won regular jobs with the Twins. “I’ll play November,” Arcia said. “Maybe a little more.”

Escobar said one month sounds about right to him, too; last winter, he played in the Caribbean Series, which meant he had only two weeks off before reporting to camp in Fort Myers.

Tale of the tape

Rookie DH Kennys Vargas carefully wrapped “grip” tape around the handle of his bats in the clubhouse, the better to make his swing even faster. “It’s my secret,” the 260-pound slugger said. “When I put this on, and wear my glove, oh man. Hold on tight.”

Something must be working. Vargas has 33 hits already, second only to Kirby Puckett (37 in 1984) for most hits by a Twin in his first 24 games.

“I’m feeling comfortable. Just watch for my pitch, and …” Vargas said, demonstrating with a swing of the bat. “Just hit it hard.”

The bats deserve some of the credit, too, he said. Holding up the bat he’s currently using, with its newly taped handle, he said, “Mucho hits in this one.” Then he kissed the barrel.

Etc.

• Trevor Plouffe’s hard grounder down the third-base line broke up Liam Hendriks’ perfect game in the fifth inning, but it was notable for another reason, too. It gave him 38 doubles this season, second only to Miguel Cabrera’s 41 in the American League. It’s also the most in a single season by a Twins third baseman, breaking Gary Gaetti’s record set in 2001 and tied in 2002. One asterisk: Two of Plouffe’s doubles came in games in which he served as designated hitter, not third baseman. The fifth-year player has another 30 games to pursue Justin Morneau’s franchise record of 47 doubles.

• Several Twins players are still suffering from the flu, Gardenhire said, “but no one’s come in here and said, ‘I can’t play.’ ”

• Twins General Manager Terry Ryan is in Rochester, N.Y., to seal a new two-year affiliation agreement with the Red Wings and decide which players will be promoted next week, but any personnel decisions will wait until Rochester is eliminated from the International League playoff chase.

• Cedar Rapids catcher Mitch Garver was named to the Midwest League all-star team. The former ninth-round pick has 15 doubles and 76 RBI this season.

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