CHICAGO – The newest Twin is a career minor leaguer who has been with three organizations, can play multiple positions but is known more for what he doesn’t do at the plate than what he does.
Let manager Paul Molitor explain Willians Astudillo’s hitting approach.
“Get them before they get you,” Molitor said succinctly.
Astudillo, called up by the Twins on Friday to replace Taylor Motter (concussion) on the roster, puts the ball in play, quickly. He doesn’t walk. He doesn’t strike out.
Astudillo, 26, was batting .290 at Class AAA Rochester with seven home runs and 25 RBI in 49 games. In 188 plate appearances, Astudillo walked five times while striking out nine.
In 609 games and 2,342 plate appearances over nine minor league seasons, he has walked 80 times while striking out 76.
Miguel Sano has struck out 66 times — this year.
“I don’t think he gets to [strike] three very often,” said Derek Falvey, Twins chief baseball officer. “He’s an aggressive guy. It’s not a secret. I’m not revealing anything the advance work won’t show. He attacks the ball and makes good contact. Sometimes that profile plays well off the bench when you think about different types of guys to bring in the sixth, seventh, eighth inning.”
Astudillo said he simply sees the ball and hits the ball.
“Coaches try to change my approach,” he said. “It’s just who I am. I’m a free swinger.”
It will be interesting to see how teams pitch to the confirmed hacker.
Astudillo has played first, third, left field and caught for the Red Wings, and his versatility was a factor in his promotion. He replaces Motter, who had played second, third, shortstop and right field for the Twins before he crashed into a wall on Thursday during the Twins’ 2-1 win in 13 innings over the White Sox. Motter was believed to have had just a sore sternum, but the results of the concussion test pointed to something else.
“They went through the testing and felt like this was the best thing to do to take precautions,” Falvey said of Motter, who is 0-for-14 in seven games with the Twins.
Astudillo gives the Twins a third catcher who can play other positions, a useful tool to have over the next week of interleague games.Astudillo was signed as a minor league free agent during the offseason with an invitation to spring training. Visa problems delayed his arrival to camp until Feb. 24.
Jorge could be lost
In order to make room on the 40-man roster for Astudillo, the Twins designated righthander Felix Jorge for assignment. He is available on waivers and could be selected by another team. If not, he can remain with the Twins.
The 24-year-old Dominican, who made two starts with the Twins last season, currently is with the Gulf Coast League rookie team on the comeback from a sore triceps.
Still, many regard Jorge to be among the Twins’ top 20 prospects. He is 39-32 with a 3.27 ERA in the minor leagues and was 10-4 with a 3.68 ERA between Rochester and Class AA Chattanooga last season.
Shortstop Jorge Polanco went 4-for-7 in a doubleheader on Thursday for Rochester, including a triple. The Twins are trying not to get too encouraged but feel he has a chance to help them right away when his PED suspension ends and he can join them on Monday in Milwaukee.
“He’s playing well so we’ll keep our fingers crossed,” Falvey said. “But with the way things have been going this season, we’ll wait over the next 72 hours. But hopefully he’s progressing.”
• Joe Mauer and his wife, Maddie, are expecting their third child. And, no, they aren’t expecting twins again. “I checked, and it’s one, not two,” Mauer said. “We’re expecting around Thanksgiving and we’re really excited.” They will wait until birth to learn if it’s a boy or girl.
• After the game, the Twins send righthander Alan Busenitz back to Class AAA Rochester. That frees up a spot for Adalberto Mejia, who will start on Saturday.