Chris Colabello is getting used to being called up by the Twins — this week’s summons is his fourth of the year — but it never gets old, he said.
This visit, however, is going to be different than the others.
Colabello’s previous stays were mostly spent on the bench, sometimes pinch-hitting in the late innings, but mostly watching. He appeared in seven games, but only started three times. And each time, he went back to Class AAA Rochester and continued beating up minor league pitching.
This time, however, the Twins have a different role for him. This time, they want to find out: Is this guy for real?
“With the numbers he put up at Triple-A, we need to find out if he can do some sort of that here,” General Manager Terry Ryan said of the 29-year-old rookie, who already has a decent case for International League MVP. Colabello was batting .354 at Rochester, with 24 doubles, 24 home runs, and 76 RBI. “There are a lot of players who can succeed in Triple-A, and they come up here, and they’re not that type of player. That’s why we need to get him out there — see what he can do against this caliber. He might take off.”
The Twins certainly could use some of that offense, especially from the right side now that Josh Willingham is out for another month or so. Twins righthanded hitters are batting just .230 on the year, with a .305 on-base percentage. That’s why Ron Gardenhire expects to write Colabello’s name on his lineup card far more frequently during this stay.
“We just want to see him get some swings. The kid’s done everything you can do in Triple-A,” Gardenhire said before Saturday’s game. “He’s earned a shot here. For the most part, he’s going to get consistent swings.”
One thing he probably won’t do, though, is play right field. The Twins put him there in May, when they were short of outfielders, but “I don’t think we want to do that too much,” Ryan said.
Colabello has been a first baseman throughout his career, and has been the designated hitter during the first two games of this weekend’s series with Cleveland, including in Saturday’s 3-2 victory, when he hit a flare some 150 feet into right field for a game-tying single, his first career RBI.
“When I tell stories, when I’m in my elder years, [I’ll say] it went a lot farther,” Colabello joked.
Blackburn at AAA
With Vance Worley out because of a shoulder injury, and Pedro Hernandez’s left elbow still sore, Nick Blackburn was promoted to Rochester on Saturday. Ryan says it’s entirely possible the 31-year-old righthander, who underwent wrist surgery in January, makes an appearance in Minnesota this year.
Blackburn pitched twice in Class AA New Britain, giving up six runs in 10 ⅔ innings, but the Twins were encouraged, Ryan said. “He’s getting there. His velocity is OK, around 88-90 [mph], I believe,” Ryan said. “He’s got enough sink. He’s got enough velocity. It’s going to be [determined by his] location and breaking ball. He used to have an unhittable cutter.”
Blackburn, 43-55 in six seasons with the Twins, is in the final season of a four-year, $14 million contract that pays him $5.5 million this year.
• Caleb Theilbar is bothered by a minor groin injury, Gardenhire said, and “we’ll have to back off for a few days” from using the lefthanded reliever.
• Outfielder Wilkin Ramirez took early batting practice on Saturday, and Ryan said his headaches, a product of the concussion he suffered May 25, finally have disappeared.