If Tyler Austin was determined to impress his new bosses, he has done it.
“You like to get a chance to look at people, the new faces, either through our system or some of the guys from the trades, like Tyler,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “It’s just one of those guys, he’s intriguing — high-end power, we’ve seen it with the home runs, even the long foul balls. I think he’s trying to put together better at-bats, and not just look at the fences.”
Molitor made that comment before Sunday’s game — before Austin hit two home runs in a 6-2 loss to Oakland at Target Field, including one that landed in the center field restaurant Catch in the fourth inning.
In 12 games with the Twins, he is batting .333 with six homers, nine RBI and five multi-hit games. He hit .223 with eight homers and 23 RBI in 34 games with the Yankees before coming over as part of the deal for Lance Lynn on July 30.
Austin, who turns 27 on Sept. 6, is the fourth Twins player to hit a ball into Catch, joining Byung-Ho Park, Miguel Sano and Jake Cave, who did it a week earlier. The exit velocity of Austin’s ball was 111 miles per hour, and it traveled an estimated 433 feet.
“Just swinging at good pitches, man, I think that’s the big thing,” Austin said. “Not missing them, not fouling them off. When you do that, sometimes good things happen.”
The righthanded-hitting Austin was going to play primarily against lefthanders at first. But his surge — both homers Sunday came off righthanders — is forcing Molitor to play him more.
Pineda to have MRI
Righthander Michael Pineda met with team doctors Sunday to discuss the soreness in his right knee, and a magnetic resonance imaging exam is scheduled for Monday.
Pineda’s rehabilitation following Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery was going smoothly until he felt discomfort during a bullpen session last week at Class AAA Rochester. He is now in the Twin Cities, trying to get to the bottom of the issue.
“I’m happy because I was throwing the ball really good in Fort Myers and Rochester, too,” Pineda said. “Everything is good and my arm feels great, but right now I’m frustrated with my knee because I was almost ready to play here. I was so excited about it, so we’ll see what happens. Hopefully, nothing serious, because I want to pitch.”
Pineda made one appearance for Rochester, giving up one run — on a home run — during a four-inning outing Tuesday. He was scheduled to start Sunday for the Red Wings and then make one more appearance before joining the Twins. Now that is on hold.
“This year, I had a personal goal that I wanted to pitch in September,” said the former Yankees pitcher, who signed a two-year, $10 million contract with the Twins over the offseason as a free agent. “I’ve been working so hard every day to get ready for September, and everything is good with my arm. I’m so happy with my arm, so we’ll see.”
Catcher Bobby Wilson might be back sooner than later. He sprained his right ankle Thursday when he stepped on a bat while running to back up first base.
“He’s doing better than I thought he would be after 48 hours,” Molitor said. “He’s responded to treatment and put a lot more weight on that foot. We’ll just have to see, but I’m more encouraged now that it’s going to be less than more, whether that’s 10 days, 12 days.”
Since Willians Astudillo is up from Rochester to back up Mitch Garver with Wilson on the shelf, the Twins can wait until after the Sept. 1 roster expansion date and activate Wilson whenever he is ready.
Shortstop Jorge Polanco left Sunday’s game in the fifth inning, after hitting a single to left field, because of cramping and soreness in his legs. Ehire Adrianza pinch ran for him and replaced him in the field.
Molitor doesn’t think Polanco has anything serious. The scheduled off day Monday should help him recover. “He should be fine,” Molitor said.