BOSTON – Ian Miller was standing on deck Wednesday, awaiting a moment he’d never forget. With his mother and girlfriend in the Fenway Park stands, Miller was due up in the ninth inning against fellow rookie Darwinzon Hernandez for his first major league at-bat. He even engaged with some hecklers near the Twins dugout over his .000 batting average, fans whose tone changed once they realized what was about to happen.
“They were like, ‘Oh my God, it’s your debut! Good luck!” Miller said with a laugh.
Then fate — well, Rocco Baldelli, actually — intervened. The Twins manager called Miller back to the dugout, sending up Mitch Garver to pinch hit instead.
Was the rookie outfielder crushed? Heartbroken? Nah.
“I was like, ‘[Hernandez] wouldn’t want any part of what I have,’ ” Miller joked.
That good-natured outlook has earned the rookie friends in the clubhouse, if not much playing time yet. Miller did make his debut in that game, playing center field for two innings and catching a fly ball. He’s eager to grab a bat, too — Miller admitted that he breathlessly scans each day’s lineup, hoping to see his name — but isn’t complaining about the wait.
“He’s thanked us all numerous times. He’s told us, ‘I’ll probably thank all of you again a few more times,’ which he then proceeded to do,” Baldelli said of Miller, a base-stealing specialist who was claimed off waivers from the Mariners last month. “But he’s been great. He gets his work in, he’s ready to play. He just says, ‘Anything you need me to do, I’m here to help. I’ll be ready to go.’ … And we’ll make sure he gets his chance.”
Until then, Fenway isn’t a bad place to begin a career, he said. He even got to autograph the inside of the Green Monster, a tradition to which he added a sentimental touch: He added the names Mark Miller and Dan Miller, his deceased father and uncle, baseball fans who would have wanted to be here, too.
“They’re both up there with me,” Miller said. “That’s pretty special.”
A taste of Fenway
Miller wasn’t the only Twin to get his first Fenway experience this week. Brusdar Graterol, the Twins’ top pitching prospect, faced four batters Wednesday, retiring three of them and walking the other in a scoreless eighth inning.
“He made some adjustments,” Baldelli said. “Was high and wide on the first few pitches, but he locked in pretty well.”
Graterol’s fastball averaged 98.7 miles per hour, topping out at 99.3, but he only induced one swing-and-miss among the 13 pitches he needed to get through his second big-league inning. It ended with the 21-year-old facing last year’s MVP, Mookie Betts, who lined a fastball directly at him. Graterol’s reflexes passed the test, too.
“It was important to get him out here this series, if that was possible, to throw him out there in a different kind of environment and let him figure it out,” Baldelli said.
Baldelli said Sam Dyson’s biceps tendinitis isn’t expected to keep him sidelined for long. “We’re treating it like a day-to-day situation,” the manager said of the righthanded reliever, who returned to Minneapolis two days early to have his pitching arm examined.
“The situation we’re dealing with here is something that we can definitely work through,” Baldelli said. “He’s obviously experiencing some discomfort, but it doesn’t appear to be something long-term or that we need to be overly worried about.”
Same for Jorge Polanco, Baldelli said, though the shortstop — who leads the Twins in games played (133) — might miss a few games with a sore middle finger on his right hand. Polanco was out of the lineup Thursday, but was available if needed.
“He’s played through it fine. It’s probably a little worse now than it had been,” Baldelli said. “He’s probably been due for more than one day off that he hasn’t gotten for a number of reasons. We didn’t want to wait. We wanted to give him a day to let this thing settle down.”
Saturday’s game with the second-place Indians is sold out, the Twins reported, and they’re hoping a strong walk-up surge sells out Friday and Sunday games, too.