Ehire Adrianza thought he had it. After driving in a run in Oakland last September with a fourth-inning double, the Twins’ utility infielder indulged in a rare bit of overconfidence: He checked his stats.
“That was a mistake,” Adrianza says now, shaking his head. “I’m not the kind of guy that looks at the numbers after every game, or even every week. Trust me, I don’t know how many hits or home runs I have today. … But I knew I was getting close.”
Close to satisfying his father’s statistical targets for him, he means. In his fifth season as a mostly full-time major leaguer in 2018, Adrianza already owned a career-high 39 RBI. But his father, also named Ehire Adrianza, wanted 40. And Adrianza had amassed, playing only about two-thirds of the time, an amazing 23 doubles. But Dad, who watches every Twins game, wanted 25, equaling the combined total of his previous seasons.
“Every time we talked, he said, ‘You can do it, Ehire. You can get there. You’re a good hitter,’ ” Adrianza said. “He kept me [motivated].”
The elder Adrianza has been doing that for a long time. Baseball was important in his northern Venezuelan household, and his son took his first steps toward the major leagues when he was 5.
“He took me to the park, and I went right to [shortstop], so he started hitting me ground balls,” Adrianza recalled. “It just became a natural thing.”
Soon after that day, his father was hired by the White Sox to scout Venezuelan prospects. But it gradually became clear that his own son would someday be one of the best fielding prospects that he would see. He could play all four infield positions, and his soft, sure hands made him a better fielder than teammates who focused on only one position.
And the senior Ehire deserves much of the credit, his son said a couple of days before Father’s Day.
“If he didn’t put the work in with me, I don’t think I’m able to make it,” Adrianza said of his dad, who now lives in Miami and visited him earlier this month when the Twins played Tampa Bay. “Sometimes I was lazy, didn’t want to go practice, and he pushed me to do it. I liked baseball, but you have to work hard to be really good at it. I don’t know what would have happened” without his influence.
Now Ehire the son is nearly 30, and an established utility player on a first-place team. He’s made a career of playing three or four times a week without letting the time off affect him.
“AD is a true professional. He’s smart, he’s got incredible instincts for the game, he’s reliable and he’s willing to do anything you ask,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “Guys like that can be just as important [as the starters] because they’re such stabilizing influences.”
It just doesn’t always feel so stable to Adrianza — or his father. He got off to a terribly slow start this spring and was batting just .120 on May 11. “It was hard, but you trust you’ll get there. That’s what my father told me,” Adrianza said. “It’s good to have somebody who has your back. He told me, ‘That’s not you. Just keep working.’ When you have someone on your side like that, you have confidence.”
“I’m seeing the ball really good,” he said, and the stats — though he hasn’t noticed — back him up: a .418 average over the past five weeks, with a .523 on-base percentage and .618 slugging percentage, a 1.141 OPS that helps him fit in with the Twins’ record-breaking offense.
Even his dad must be impressed, right?
“He likes the [four] home runs, but he’s still on my neck about getting my numbers up,” Adrianza said. “He wants me to keep getting better.”
Especially after what happened last year. Adrianza, so close to 40 RBI and 25 doubles, went 1-for-11 in the three games he played over the season’s final week, and his stats didn’t budge.
When did the elder Adrianza get over his disappointment?
“Not yet,” his son said, grinning. “I’m still working hard for him.”
Phil Miller covers the Twins for the Star Tribune. Twitter: @MillerStrib