Eddie Rosario’s first major league home run, in 2015, was hit to the opposite field, so he definitely knows how to drive the ball that way.
And perhaps a sign that he’s locked in pretty good at the plate right now was his 2-for-4 performance Wednesday, which included a solo home run to left-center in the second inning that opened the scoring in a 4-0 victory over Toronto at Target Field.
“We know he’s got power over there,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “He’s got power all over the field. Letting the ball travel. I think by doing that, for one, you’re going to see it a little bit longer and you probably got a better chance of keeping it in the zone.”
Rosario went 5-for-12 in the series with two home runs, a double and four RBI. During the six-game homestand, Rosario batted .360 with three home runs and six RBI.
Rosario, Eduardo Escobar and Max Kepler have taken over the middle of the batting order — with Rosario batting fifth — because of injuries and slumps to teammates.
“That five hole is still a big slot, as he proved the last couple days, a couple of homers and an extra-base hit [Tuesday] to drive in a run,” Molitor said.
The four-man outfield is the new thing in baseball. It’s been employed against certain lefthanded sluggers this season — the Twins’ Logan Morrison is one of them — and can play mind games with a hitter.
The Twins used shortstop Ehire Adrianza as the extra outfielder Tuesday, with the remaining three infielders swung over to the pull side.
A hitter can opt to beat the defense by slapping the ball to a wide-open left side of the infield. That’s a victory for the defense, which doesn’t want to yield an extra-base hit. Or the hitter can try too hard to hit a home run and mess up his timing.
The Twins have talked about using the alignment, and they did twice during the series against the Blue Jays, both times against Justin Smoak.
“It’s made it tougher, and guys have had trouble adjusting,” Molitor said. “Some more than others.”
It can be a mental hurdle for the teams employing the shift, too. It’s easy to look at all the uncovered space in the infield and wonder if they are doing the right thing.
“I have a little anxiousness about it,” Molitor said. “You have a tendency to think about how it cannot work, if a guy bleeds one through and the next guy hits a two-run homer.”
But Smoak actually attempted a bunt Monday when first facing that defense.
“That was his first bunt attempt in three years,” Molitor noted. “He’s thinking about it. Twenty-plus percent chance of him hitting a double in certain situations. If he hits a ground ball to shortstop, you’re kind of happy.
“You’re willing to give something to get something.”
• Righthander Michael Pineda is spending his second week in the Twin Cities as he takes a break between segments of his rehabilitation following Tommy John surgery last July. He will return to Fort Myers next week to resume throwing. The Twins have been pleased with his progress, and he could start throwing off a mound in the next couple of weeks.
“We’re still encouraged by where he is and the potential of him having a chance to do something before the year is over,” Molitor said.
• Righthander Phil Hughes met with the club about his role going forward. The plan is to use him in shorter stints, so he can come in and work on building arm strength by “airing it out,” he said. Hughes, who has a 7.71 ERA after two outings, hopes he can find something that works so he can be more competitive and boost his confidence.