Saturday’s game was only six pitches old when Alex Presley’s range was tested. Desmond Jennings hammered a sinker directly over Presley’s head, and the Twins center fielder reached it just short of the warning track, flagging down what would have been a double or triple.
Two innings later, with a runner on third, Presley ended the inning and saved a run by racing in 50 feet and diving for Wil Myers’ looper into short center.
Two weeks into his Twins career, Presley is getting more comfortable in Target Field’s spacious center field.
“I’m used to having a lot of room to cover, but this ballpark is really big. It holds a lot of balls in that in other places might go out,” Presley said. “There’s no short porch here, and the walls are pretty high. You can’t quit on any ball, basically, because you can’t assume anything is going to go out.”
Manager Ron Gardenhire said he is using this month to evaluate the defense of Presley, acquired from Pittsburgh for for Justin Morneau on Aug. 31, and believes Presley is better at coming in on a fly ball than going back. “He gets pretty good jumps [on balls in front of him]. Side-to-side, [he’s] OK,” Gardenhire said. “It looks like he goes back pretty good to right-center. Left-center, I haven’t seen the power jump I like to see.”
It’s too early, though, to know for sure, Gardenhire said, if Presley covers ground the way is Aaron Hicks does, saying: “I haven’t seen enough. I want to see his jumps, and how he moves. He’s new to this league, doesn’t know the hitters. There’s been times where we’re talking [playing] step-pull with a righthander, and he’ll be playing first-base side. It’s just about figuring it out.”
One thing Presley has already figured out: Right field, with its high wall and granite overhang, puts extra pressure on him.
“Once the guy in right commits [to trying to catch a deep ball], I have to anticipate it coming off that granite and get over there,” Presley said. “It comes off really hard.”
Gardenhire rated Presley’s throwing arm a 5 on baseball’s 2-8 scouting scale, or roughly average, but believes he can improve simply by focusing on his footwork. Along with his 17-for-51 start at the plate entering Saturday, he is making a case for next year’s roster.
“He can hit, we see that. He catches balls he’s supposed to catch,” Gardenhire said. “Now we’ll see if he starts catching some balls that above-average guys catch.”
Not a permanent move
Ryan Doumit’s decision to give up catching for the rest of the season, in order to avoid another concussion, was his decision, General Manager Terry Ryan said, one the Twins support. But he is still a catcher, Ryan emphasized, and he sees no reason, should the Twins choose, not to start next season with a two-man catching duo of Joe Mauer and Doumit, as they did this year.
“We’ve got plenty of catching here now,” Ryan said. “But [Doumit] has also stated that he’s certainly looking forward to catching next year. ... He’s a catcher.”
• Mauer worked out again Saturday and reported no problems, Ryan said. But no decision will be made about next week’s road trip to Chicago and Oakland until Sunday. And even if Mauer stays behind, as he works his way back from a concussion he suffered on Aug. 19, Ryan said it’s possible he could rejoin the team midway through the trip.
• The Twins’ 11 strikeouts against Tampa Bay on Friday — the 55th time they have struck out 10 or more times — gave them 1,259 on the season. That’s the most in franchise history, including the team’s 60 seasons as the Washington Senators.