Jake Cave has discovered something important during his second season with the Twins: Playing part-time is a talent, he said, not a burden.
A talent he believes he is developing.
"I never understood that before. I had friends who had [played a bench role] and they explained to me how hard it is, and I didn't understand," said Cave, who was batting .176 when he was sent to Class AAA Rochester on June 28.
Apparently so. Ask any Twins fan which player has the team's highest batting average since July 1, and it's not likely many could come up with Cave. But even with an 0-for-3 tacked on by Lucas Giolito on Wednesday, a start that ended his six-game hitting streak, the 26-year-old outfielder has a .391 average that eclipses Nelson Cruz's and Luis Arraez's recent success.
It's partly the result of more regular playing time, given the absence of Byron Buxton and the occasional off days by Eddie Rosario and Max Kepler. But Cave said he's much better at dealing with on-again-off-again playing time, too.
"I've learned a few ways to keep my timing. I'm very careful about keeping my routine now, and it helps. You know, I didn't play in Milwaukee last week, and then we go to Texas and I [collect six hits in 12 at-bats]," Cave said. "You've kind of got to go about things a little differently. Sometimes you get too much stuff done too early in the day when you're not playing, and then you come in cold when you get in. So I've started moving my stuff back a little bit and doing stuff in the cage during the game.
"I like that, I like how prepared I feel."
So does manager Rocco Baldelli, who pointed out that, even while being optioned to and recalled from Rochester four times apiece this year, Cave has managed to hit .352 with seven homers at Class AAA.
"He's been having good at-bats all year. He dominated at Triple-A," Baldelli said. "Did he have a shot spell early on where he wasn't swinging it like this? Sure, but overall, he's had a good offensive year."
The Twins will wear their white-on-white Players Weekend uniforms beginning Friday, but there's one hitch. To prevent the ball from being less visible against hats during the windup, pitchers will wear all-black hats. Kyle Gibson's doesn't fit well, so he wore it during a bullpen workout Wednesday in the hope that sweating in it will shrink it.