When Josh Willingham’s sore knee required surgery, Ryan Doumit looked around the Twins clubhouse and figured out his future pretty quickly.
“Essentially, we have three outfielders in here right now,” the catcher said. “I realized there’s really no choice — the bulk of my playing time is going to come out in right field. And I’m OK with that.”
Doumit, 32, only rarely played the outfield during his minor league career, but the Pirates tried him there for 38 games in 2007 and 18 in 2011, and he got 22 more with the Twins last season.
“I’m a catcher at heart. I still need to dabble in catching every once in a while,” he said, and manager Ron Gardenhire made it clear he will still put Doumit behind the plate on occasion. “But I’m pretty comfortable out there. I’m fine with doing that for as long as they need me to, and I think my legs are OK with it, too.”
Doumit has also served as designated hitter in 28 games, more than any other player, but he said he prefers right field.
“I’ve enjoyed my time there, but I like playing both sides of the ball,” he said. “If you’re the DH and you’re not hitting, you’re essentially not helping the team. I like to be able to flip the switch and help the team by playing right. I’m fidgety. Right field is a better fit for me than DH.”
Doumit is getting better at it all the time, too. He has thrown out four baserunners from the outfield this season, including a strong throw from the corner Saturday to nail Asdrubal Cabrera.
“He didn’t panic, he didn’t just launch it,” Gardenhire said. “He set himself and made a really nice throw. He’s got a great arm.”
Said Doumit: “I take pride in being as accurate as I can — that stems from catching, because you’ve got a small window to put the ball in. It’s fun. I hope guys keep running on me, because it’s a thrill throwing guys out.”
Ups and downs in field
After two days of turning in solid defensive plays, the Twins outdid themselves Sunday. And yet, their defense let them down, too.
Aaron Hicks saved a run for Scott Diamond with a diving catch in left-center to end the fourth inning, and Clete Thomas pulled Cabrera’s home run out of the stands in the fifth, preventing another. Thomas actually had two chances, but Jason Kipnis’ home run in the third glanced off the top of his glove and bounced off a fence.
But acting manager Terry Steinbach wasn’t happy with a trio of plays that made the Twins’ challenge more difficult. He cited a catchable bloop that Hicks allowed to fall, a mix-up at second base that turned a potential double play into an extra out for the Indians, and a grounder at Trevor Plouffe that the third baseman let get past him.
“Those are things we have to iron out, because for us to win, defense has to be a big part of our game,” Steinbach said. “Those plays should have been made today.”
• Gardenhire remained in the clubhouse for a second day in a row after coming down with flu-like symptoms. He was on the team’s flight to Anaheim, however.
• Doug Bernier made his Twins debut as a defensive replacement for Plouffe in the eighth inning. He batted once, too, but was walked on four pitches. “My heart was beating a little faster, all that, but it felt really good to get out there,” he said. Anaheim is about 150 miles from his hometown of Santa Maria, Calif. “I’ve got some people coming, including my mom, which is going to be great,” Bernier said.