How depleted is the Twins' outfield depth? Their new backup center fielder, a 30-year-old veteran who has played parts of five seasons for four teams, has played the position zero times in the majors.
But Rob Refsnyder is certain he's up to the job.
"Rocco got me some innings in spring training, so that helped. I played one game there in St. Paul," Refsnyder said after being called up Saturday when Jake Cave went on the 60-day injured list. "I've been taking a bunch of reps, so I feel good."
Max Kepler figures to get most of the playing time until Byron Buxton returns in a month or so, but the Twins believe Refsnyder can help, too. And he showed it in his debut. Refsnyder played both left and right field, and singled twice, including a two-out line drive hit that set up Miguel Sano for the winning three-run homer in the eighth inning.
"Those are the types of at-bats where you have to wash away some of the challenging things that come up," said Twins manager Rocco Baldelli, whose team is also missing rookie outfielder Alex Kirilloff. "We need baserunners, we need guys putting the ball in play, we need guys battling at the plate. And that's what we got."
Refsnyder got a chance when Cave's sore back, which had bothered him for a couple of weeks, worsened in Chicago last week. An examination discovered that Cave had been playing with a stress fracture, even ran the bases and made plays in the outfield with it.
"It's not a good thing, but it's not quite as scary as it sounds," Baldelli said. "But it's going to keep him off the field for awhile."
The Twins also have Keon Broxton at Class AAA St. Paul, but chose Refsnyder because Baldelli believes he's a better option at the plate vs. some lefthanded pitching the Twins will face over the next couple of weeks.
The call, from Saints manager Toby Gardenhire, caught Refsnyder by surprise.
"I was holding my son [Drake]. He's 2 months old. It was a pretty special moment," said Refsnyder, who grew up in California but is the second Korean-born player in Twins history, joining ByungHo Park. "I feel really, really blessed. I don't take these opportunities for granted. Being that up-and-down guy throughout my career, you kind of savor these moments a little bit longer than you'd like to admit."
Not much help out there
Credit Twins General Manager Thad Levine for being able to divine a positive aspect from the worst record in baseball.
"For better or worse, we're in a fortuitous claiming position than we aspired to be in," Levine deadpanned about MLB's method of granting waiver claims in reverse order of the standings.
Trouble is, there's generally not much to claim in May, probably no answers to the Twins' current shortages of center fielders, hot bats and shut-down relievers. Trades and roster shuffles are allowed right now, but most teams wait until the season sorts itself out further.
Which means if the Twins are planning to salvage their season, they will have to do it themselves.
"We are looking at all the guys who are [available]," but "mid-May is a rare time to find" a season-changing player, Levine said. "Nothing is imminent. Nothing that I could [say] that there are three or four different routes we could go. [At this] moment in time, I would say all those options are internal."
And given all the injuries the Twins have suffered, Levin added, "most of those internal options are by and large here right now."
The ligaments in lefthander Devin Smeltzer's left elbow are intact, and his injury has been diagnosed as nerve irritation. It won't require surgery, but will need rest, "probably a matter of weeks," Baldelli said.