OAKLAND, CALIF. – Paul Molitor has four outfielders now, three of whom have spent most of the season in the minor leagues, plus a slumping reserve slugger.
Yet the manager sees opportunity, not deprivation.
“I kind of have an idea how it might work,” Molitor said Wednesday, the first day of Miguel Sano’s minimum 15 on the disabled list because of a strained left hamstring. “I’ll try to keep everyone involved, at least a little bit. We’re depleted — it’s not an excuse, but I hope someone takes advantage and starts giving me consistency. They’ll see their name in the starting lineup, as opposed to extra players, if they do that.”
Well, they might start either way. The options are few.
Robbie Grossman, batting .359 in his two-week-old Twins career, is probably the safest outfielder on the roster, given his experience and impressive productivity. Then there’s Byron Buxton, the top prospect who still is battling his strikeout tendencies in the majors. Max Kepler, with only 13 games of big-league experience and three hits in his career, arrived Wednesday. And Oswaldo Arcia, 4-for-35 with no homers and 15 strikeouts in his past 11 games, rounds out the candidates.
“Arcia’s at-bats have been sparse, and spread out to a point where I think sometimes it’s hard to stay sharp,” Molitor said of the 25-year-old. “I’m just going to try to see matchups for him. He’s one guy who you need to, as a manager, be cognizant of [pitchers] he has a chance against, maybe more than some other guys.”
The Twins also considered recalling Eddie Rosario from Class AAA Rochester when Sano was hurt Tuesday, but “we just thought that Eddie has a lot of things he still needs to work on,” assistant general manager Rob Antony said.
More time for Kepler
Kepler arose before dawn in Indianapolis in order to catch a flight to the Bay Area. It’s draining, but he’ll rest up. He’s going to need plenty of energy for awhile.
After starting only two games during his two-week stint with the Twins in April, and only one during his stay last September, Kepler figures to get lots more playing time now.
“He’s going to get a chance, more than he did the other time around, and we’ll see how he does,” Molitor said of the 23-year-old native of Germany. “One thing he’s always done, he stays in there against lefties. We don’t have too many concerns about his ability to give me good at-bats, left or right.”
Kepler missed a week of Class AAA games because of a groin injury last month, and had only been back for two games. But he went 3-for-8, raised his season average to .286, and convinced the Twins he is ready for a true major league audition.
“I thought it would be a couple days to get back into things, but I was seeing things good the first day,” he said. Now a major leaguer for the third time, “I feel more relaxed,” he said. “I used to be more jittery up here. I couldn’t focus on what I had to. Now I feel … level.”
‘Yeah, he was just off’
Pat Dean, so efficient in outpitching Felix Hernandez last Friday, was a sloppy mess in his encore, allowing 11 baserunners in his five innings of work, including three doubles and a home run by light-hitting A’s outfielder Jake Smolinski. But the difference between the two outings was actually small, Molitor and Dean agreed.
“It wasn’t a dramatically different Pat Dean. There were a lot of big pitches just a couple inches [off],” Molitor said. “He had to throw a lot more pitches because he was just missing, in and out. I was talking to [catcher Juan Centeno] throughout the game, and he said, ‘Yeah, he was just off.’ ”
“My fastball was up a little too much, got too much of the plate more than I’d like,” Dean said. “I didn’t execute as much as I should have, that’s about it.”