There could be another ex-Minnesota Gopher playing baseball on the other end of downtown soon. And that’s just where Terry Ryan likes to see them.
Nate Hanson has been promoted to Class AAA Rochester, and he has gotten comfortable quickly. The 26-year-old infielder hit a two-run homer on Thursday, giving him two in just his first six games with the Red Wings.
Not bad for a former 28th-round pick.
“He’s just a good baseball player. He’s playing third, he’s played first, he can go to second, he can play the outfield,” said Rob Antony, assistant general manager. “I’m telling you, [Gophers coach] John Anderson, his group over there, they turn out some good ballplayers.”
And when they do, the Twins prefer to keep them in-state.
“You like to keep your people who grew up here, played here. We take a lot of pride in getting Minnesotans,” Ryan said. “A lot of scouts out there will tell you that they don’t even bother [scouting Minnesota] most of the time, because the Twins will go get those guys and make sure they keep them. I like that statement, because we kind of feel it’s our area. We should know these kids better than anybody.”
Glen Perkins and Cole De Vries are on the major league roster now, but there are three other Gophers in the system, with Hanson being the most advanced. Shortstop A.J. Pettersen plays for the Class A Fort Myers Miracle, along with catcher Kyle Knudson.
Fort Myers manager Doug Mientkiewicz “says Petterson may be the MVP of his team,” Antony said. “They know how to play the game over at Minnesota.”
The winner is …
It’s not the Academy Awards, exactly, but there is an unusual amount of suspense over the Twins’ announcement on Saturday: Who is going to be the organization’s Player of the Month for April?
“It’s a tough one,” said Antony, one of six members of the front office and scouting department who fills out a ballot each month. “I don’t recall ever having as many guys having big months the same month.”
There’s Miguel Sano, who only led all of the minor leagues with nine home runs in Fort Myers. There’s Byron Buxton, leading off at Cedar Rapids and posting a ridiculous .509 on-base percentage, with 10 stolen bases, 21 walks, five homers and 23 RBI. His teammate, Adam Walker, leads the Midwest League with 26 RBI. Miracle second baseman Eddie Rosario is batting .343.
“Sano, when you hit home runs in that ballpark, in that league, with the big-league spring training ballparks, that’s impressive. Buxton walked more than he struck out — that kind of discipline, and hitting the way he is. Adam Walker had 16 RBI in a week. Jorge Polanco is hitting .350 at Cedar Rapids,” Antony said. “Any of those guys would normally win it.”
On the pitcher’s side, Steven Gruver has 27 strikeouts in 20 innings, plus a 1.31 ERA, at Cedar Rapids. D.J. Baxendale went 4-0 with a 1.84 ERA at Fort Myers. Tyler Duffey pitched seven perfect innings, and is 3-1 at Cedar Rapids. Alex Meyer has 34 strikeouts in 28 innings at New Britain.
The winner receives a crystal baseball, Antony said.
And the losers will be left wondering: What do I have to do?