For the first time in his brief Twins career, Marwin Gonzalez looked awkward in the field.
With a man on in the third, Mike Trout of the Angels flicked a single to right field on Monday night. Gonzalez, making his first career start and fifth appearance in right field, closed in to field the ball, but the ball appeared to take bad hop. Gonzalez couldn't adjust in time, and the ball bounced by him and toward the wall. A run scored, and Trout advanced up on third.
After the game, which the Twins lost 5-4, Gonzalez was asked if he overran the ball.
"Yes, I think I did," he said. "I don't want to say it was a weird hop because that would be an excuse. I overran that."
Gonzalez has made one error at third, first and now right field. But there's no question that can handle any defensive assignment Twins manager Rocco Baldelli asks him to. He's made a handful of strong plays. From left field, he threw out the Yankees' Luke Voit twice in the same in New York as he attempted to advance to second. Gonzalez is agile and has quite an arm.
And he had no problem playing right field on Monday.
"This was my first start ever in right field," he said. "I have played before but less than 10 times in the middle of the game. This is the first error though, thank God. I feel good there.
"Rocco told me in spring training I was going to be a choice against lefties when he had to give Kepler an offday. It's always fun to learn no matter how good you play the position. There's always room to get better and that's my mindset."
He was signed as a free agent to be a daily utility player, someone to move around the diamond, giving other players a break. Since Miguel Sano has been out while recovering from a lacerated heel that knocked him out of spring training, Gonzalez has made 29 starts at third, two at first, one in left field and now one in right field.
That will change once Sano returns, as Gonzalez could start at a different position almost daily. That's what the Twins envisioned when they signed him.
It fits in their whole keep-'em-fresh approach to managing a roster through a season. They are not kidding. Twins players, coming off four games in three days against Detroit, weren't expected to be in the clubhouse Monday until 3:45 for a 6:40 p.m. game. On game days, players usually start trickling in around 1 p.m.
Falvine looked at Gonzalez as a way to easing the workload on their players without much of a dropoff. Gonzalez was a 2.5 WAR player a year ago and 4.1 in 2017, so he's better than your regular non-regular. His switch hitting ability helps too. After getting off to a slow start, Gonzalez is batting .385 with a .478 on base percentage over his last 11 games.
"I've been working hard since the beginning of the season," he said. "I'd hoped that I would figure it out before, but things are coming together. That's a good sign. That's a good thing for me. I'm happy that lately, I've been able to help the team on the offensive side. I hope to keep it going."
Cruz could change timetable
Sano's return, of course, could be accelerated if the Twins put Nelson Cruz on the IL because of his sore left wrist. Cruz said on Monday that he might try swinging a bat today. If this thing drags out until the end of the week, the Twins should at making a move. They can back date the IL move to Monday, giving them just a handful of days without Cruz.
Hitters' hands and wrists are precious, and should not be in a situation when he's trying to play while treating that type of injury -- just the opinion of a scribe who has talked to dozens of players about this kind of injury.
Sano is scheduled to play all nine innings for Class AAA Rochester tonight at Charlotte. In two games for the Red Wings, Sano is 2-for-8 (both doubles) with one RBI, one walk and five (!) strikeouts. Sano's minor league rehab assignment ends on Monday.
Cruz is sitting out again tonight. The Angels are using Cam Bedrosian as "an opener." Here are the lineups: