Baltimore first baseman Chris Davis was laughing when Logan Morrison reached Sunday. Both are burly lefthanded power hitters who face increasingly extreme shifts every time they step to the plate, both are trying to dig out of terrible first halves, and both constantly get the same advice from frustrated fans: bunt.
Well, Morrison finally did, shoving a first-pitch fastball from Alex Cobb into the acres of empty dirt near third base, his first bunt single in more than two years. Davis congratulated him for his chutzpah.
“He was like, ‘Shoot, if they give it to you again, do it again,’ ” Morrison said of his friendly welcome. “He hears it, just like I do.”
Morrison’s decision, if not necessarily his form, impressed his manager. “It’s not pretty, really. It’s kind of almost like a half-swing. But he wants to take the pitcher out of the play,” Paul Molitor said. “I told him from the start, if you show it five to 10 times a year and you get two or three down, maybe it will discourage someone along the way [from shifting]. Even better than that, it will start a rally.”
This one did. Morrison’s single, his eighth in 12 career bunt attempts, came early in the Twins’ eight-run sixth inning. And the timing was important, Morrison said, because Eduardo Escobar had just homered to double the Twins’ lead from 2-0 to 4-0.
“You have to pick your spots. It’s really tough to get a pitch early in the count to do that on. If it’s in, it’s really hard to maneuver the bat to get it down the baseline. And a curveball away is harder to bunt past the pitcher,” Morrison said. “But I had a feeling I was getting a fastball after the homer. It kind of put [Cobb] on his heels a little bit, and I was able to keep the pressure on.”
Morrison, hitting just .192, knows plenty of fans want him to bunt more. “My father-in-law is on me all the time. Trust me, it’s not something I don’t think about,” he said. “But at the same time, I’m not going to do it, say, with two outs, just to get on first base. I’m not going to do it when we’re up big or down big. And you don’t want to do it so much that they move the shortstop over to guard against it. You want to save it for the right time.”
Santana inching back
Ervin Santana will start for Class AA Chattanooga in Jacksonville, Fla., on Tuesday, and Molitor said he is optimistic it will be a major milestone for the righthander’s return, perhaps right after the All-Star break.
“Hopefully it’s a step forward in a lot of ways, not only in length but quality, and we see how he responds to going deeper into a game against better competition,” Molitor said of Santana, who has yet to pitch more than four innings in a rehab start. “The goal is to get him up to [Class AAA] Rochester and have another start before we head into the [All-Star] break on Sunday. What we learn from those two starts will go a long way to determining what we want to do [with the rotation] coming out of the break.”
• The Twins pitching staff, minus Jose Berrios, was on the field for a half-hour before batting practice, getting a refresher course in their fielding responsibilities. “There’s been some good things on our defensive work by our pitchers, and some things we need to clean up,” Molitor said.
• The Twins considered moving center fielder Byron Buxton to Chattanooga this week, because Rochester has three days off for the Class AAA All-Star break. But they ultimately decided to give him the days off — sort of. Buxton is working with Red Wings hitting coach Chad Allen each day of the break, Molitor said.
• Righthander Felix Jorge, released last week when the Twins needed a 40-man roster spot, agreed to a minor league contract to remain in the organization. Jorge, who started two games for the Twins last season, has pitched only twice this season in rookie ball, because of a triceps injury.
• Outfielder Ryan LaMarre, designated for assignment last week, was claimed off waivers by the White Sox. LaMarre, 29, batted .263 in 43 games for the Twins.