DUNEDIN, FLA. – Twins catcher Willians Astudillo jumped on the first pitch he saw Saturday and flied out to right field. No one was surprised.
When a hitter steps to the plate, his at-bats can end in a variety of ways. Astudillo, who has yet to play in the major leagues, appears to avoid two of those possible outcomes.
In 2,154 minor league plate appearances, he has struck out a total of 67 times, an astounding rate of 3.1 percent. For comparison sake, Miguel Sano struck out 67 times over his first 189 major league plate appearances.
Astudillo has walked only 75 times in his minor league career. Joe Mauer has walked at least that many times in five separate big-league seasons.
“I think he averages about one and a half pitches per at-bat,” Twins manager Paul Molitor joked. “He takes those [outcomes] out of play.”
In Saturday’s 13-8 loss to Toronto, Astudillo flied out in the third inning on the first pitch he saw. He swung at the first two pitches in the fifth before eventually hitting a sacrifice fly. He hit the second pitch he saw in the sixth, flying out to center.
Astudillo, 26, batted .342 last season as a reserve catcher at Class AAA Reno. Saturday, he played for the second consecutive day while Jason Castro (migraine), Mitch Garver (knee) and Bobby Wilson (hand) recovered from ailments.
“It’s a little bit out of need and a little bit out of being curious about him,” Molitor said.
Hughes gets hit around
Phil Hughes got his work in. At least that’s what he got out of his outing Saturday.
Pitchers had to work under the same windy conditions at Dunedin Stadium, and Hughes paid the price for leaving some pitches up in the strike zone. In 2⅓ innings, he gave up four earned runs on five hits and one walk while striking out one. His fastball topped out at 90 miles per hour, which he reached several times.
“Obviously, I’m not happy with the results,” said Hughes, who threw 45 pitches, 27 for strikes. “I’ll take the positive that I felt good and located some pitches OK.”
Hughes threw around eight to 10 sliders, striking out Kendrys Morales with one in the second inning.
“I was pretty happy to see that he didn’t recognize it out of my hand,” Hughes said. “He’s a pretty good hitter and recognizes pitches pretty well.”
But he gave up a triple to Curtis Granderson on a deep drive in the first inning, a home run to Kevin Pillar in the second and a home run to Yangervis Solarte in the third.
As Hughes builds up his endurance and works on his pitches, his results will matter even more. “The line isn’t going to be great,” Molitor said. “You can tell he was trying to use his pitches, his changeup and his true slider.”
• Twins outfielder Brock Stassi (back) and infielder Nick Gordon (wrist) could play as soon as Sunday, Molitor said.
• Molitor continues to lean toward opening the season with a four-man rotation and 12-man pitching staff. Because of five off days scheduled in April, the Twins won’t need a fifth starter until April 11, and they won’t need one again until April 24. Going with four starters and eight relievers enables Molitor to have a four-man bench, which he prefers.
Jose Berrios is scheduled to make his second appearance of spring training when the Twins play host to Pittsburgh on Sunday. Berrios labored during a one-inning outing Tuesday against Boston. Anibal Sanchez will relieve Berrios, followed by Fernando Rodney, Zach Duke and Addison Reed. Righthander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to start for the Pirates.
La VELLE E. NEAL III