For Twins Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey, the first 32 games of the season have been a bit of a waiting game when it comes to production from some of his biggest free-agent signings.
First baseman/designated hitter Logan Morrison is hitting only .183, the third-worst average on the team among position players.
Starter Lance Lynn has a 7.28 ERA, the second worst on the team, trailing only outfielder Ryan LaMarre.
Closer Fernando Rodney has only three more saves (five) than losses (two) while posting a 3.86 ERA.
There have been some positives. Starter Jake Odorizzi is 3-2 and has posted a 3.83 ERA. Zach Duke and Addison Reed have been as advertised out of the bullpen, with Duke averaging 13.89 strikeouts per nine innings and Reed averaging 9.68.
And yet, while it was especially difficult waiting for those players to produce when the Twins were losing 12 of 14 games from late April to early May, it appears things might be turning around.
Odorizzi won his third game of the season Tuesday when the Twins drubbed St. Louis 7-1, their fifth consecutive victory and sixth in seven games. Morrison hit leadoff, recorded an RBI single and has a hit in eight of his past 10 games, including two homers.
Lynn had his best start of the season Saturday against the White Sox, striking out seven and allowing two runs over six innings.
At 15-17, the Twins are one game out of first place in the American League Central and have one fewer loss than the first-place Cleveland Indians.
Falvey said when you consider the early-season struggles of some of his free-agent pickups, you have to trust their history of performance.
“When you have guys who are established like Lance and Jake and guys that have been around awhile, you give them a little bit more leeway because they are working through some things,” Falvey said. “I think in Lance’s case, the late start into spring training kind of had him a little behind schedule. He’d be the last guy to make an excuse, but I think what we try and do is assess the process.
“Look at the pitches, look at where he’s going, make sure the delivery is in the right spot, make sure we know the plan is in place. We don’t rest. We don’t wait. We certainly work with a player, but we don’t want to panic, either.”
When it comes to veteran hitters such as Morrison, who is hitting .267 over his past 17 games after hitting .081 through his first 12, and Robbie Grossman, who has hit .316 in the past 11 games after starting the season only 4-for-37 (.108), Falvey viewed them with the same patience.
“I think you’re seeing from Logan what you saw from Lance — got a little bit of a late start in spring training, changing a role a little bit going to the DH,” Falvey said. “I think the first few weeks you really saw Logan trying to make an impression here and show that he can be an impact bat. Sometimes people put too much pressure on themselves. I think that over the last maybe 50 plate appearances, you’re seeing a comfort level and seeing him be who he has been. That is all we’ll ask of him.”
Falvey said everyone around the club thinks Rodney will continue to improve. After Rodney posted a 6.75 ERA through his first eight games, he has had five scoreless appearances with three saves.
“Fernando has thrown the ball really well,” Falvey said. “One of the things we talked a little bit about is his history. He gets off to some slower starts but pitches well through the course of the year. I think he has thrown the ball well. We trust him. Paul [Molitor] trusts him. I’m excited about the back end of our bullpen as we move forward.”
Ready to return?
The word around the Twins is that center fielder Byron Buxton could be activated Thursday after missing 20 games. The continued absence of Buxton, third baseman Miguel Sano, starter Ervin Santana, shortstop Jorge Polanco and now catcher Jason Castro has surely had an impact on the Twins’ slower start.
“It has been a tough stretch, and last year one of the things that helped us early is we stayed healthy — particularly on the position player front — for quite some time,” Falvey said. “This year it hasn’t quite worked out that way.”
Falvey said Buxton continues to progress and it’s just a question of improving his side-to-side movement.
Castro’s diagnosis of a meniscus tear in his right knee is not as bad as it sounds, and Falvey said Castro could be back after 10 days and a cortisone shot.
The team moved Santana to the 60-day disabled list, but Falvey said he expects Santana to return in either late May or early June.
“Sano continues to progress from his hamstring injury,” he said. “We’re hopeful as we keep getting through this road trip that he’s here doing his work in Minnesota and he’s going to get himself to a good place.”
Juggling the staff
The Twins used a franchise-record 36 pitchers over the course of last season, and this year they have already used 20. Falvey said that’s going to become more routine throughout baseball as travel gets easier for minor leaguers to go up and down.
“You’re looking for advantages over the course of 162 games, and you can’t take any one game for granted,” Falvey said. “When you have the ability to go get a fresh arm in the bullpen to help with more options over a tough stretch, you go and do it. We have great resources with making sure we are able to do that now, and it’s something I know we’ll tap into moving forward.”
Yes, it was a rocky start for the Twins this season, but with a chance to have Buxton, Sano and Santana back by the end of this month, there’s no doubt things are looking up for Falvey and the team.
• A lot of attention went to Joe Mauer collecting his 2,000th career hit earlier this season, but it’s amazing to note former Twins catcher A.J. Pierzynski recorded 2,043 hits in his career, still 27 ahead of Mauer. Of course, Mauer’s career batting average is .308 compared to Pierzynski at .280.
• Three Minnesota kids are ranked in the top 150 of the 2019 basketball class, according to Rivals.com. Forward Matthew Hurt of Rochester John Marshall is No. 5, Hopkins forward Zeke Nnaji is No. 45 and DeLaSalle guard Tyrell Terry is No. 114. The Gophers also recently offered a scholarship to Lakeville North guard Tyler Wahl in that same class.
• While the Vikings continue efforts to build offensive line depth, maybe the most important roster battle will be to see if 2016 first-round draft pick Laquon Treadwell can crack into the top three receivers spots with Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, or if newly signed Kendall Wright will take that slot position.