Oswaldo Arcia was a 22-year-old slugger coming off 14 home runs and 43 RBI in 97 games as a rookie, and the Twins were excited to have him in the lineup for a full schedule entering 2014.
Arcia was coming off 20 home runs and 57 RBI in 103 games last spring, and the Twins were hopeful that he would give away fewer at-bats with overamped swings for the fences entering 2015.
Arcia is coming off something far different as the Twins get ready for a new season. “He had a terrible year in 2015,’’ Terry Ryan said.
The Twins general manager shook his head slightly and said: “You hope that he can get it together and earn a spot with this club. The power is still there, if he gives himself a chance.’’
Arcia was in manager Paul Molitor’s Opening Day lineup last season, as he had been in Ron Gardenhire’s lineup for the 2014 opener.
Right now, the roster projections say it is a long shot Arica will be among the 13 position players when the Twins open the 2016 season April 4 in Baltimore.
On the surface, one factor seems to be in Arcia’s favor: He’s out of options to the minor leagues, and the Twins would be reluctant to give away a lefthanded power hitter who will turn 25 on May 9.
Beneath the surface, Arcia might have a factor more important in his favor: a demonstrated commitment to improve.
Arcia played in 19 games for Molitor in 2015, with two home runs, eight RBI and a .276 average. He added to an injury history with a hip flexor. When he was healthy, the Twins sent him to Class AAA Rochester on June 3.
Ryan did so by using Arcia’s last option, rather than sending him out on a rehab assignment. This was a clear message to Oswaldo that he had to earn his way back to Minnesota.
“He had such a tough time in Rochester that we didn’t even bring him back in September when the rosters expanded,’’ Ryan said.
Arcia hit 12 home runs with 41 RBI in 79 games in Rochester, but with a .199 average and 82 strikeouts in 282 at-bats.
If this meant Arcia might be at a dead end with the Twins, the signing of Byung Ho Park on Dec. 1 as another power hitter seemed to guarantee it.
Except, there were events taking place in the offseason anonymity of the Twins’ Florida complex in Fort Myers that were encouraging.
Five days a week, and often six, Arcia was working out under the guidance of Erik Beiser, the Twins’ overseer of strength conditioning in the minor leagues.
“I have always been strong,’’ Arcia said. “I am still strong, but my body is different. I am healthy and strong. I owe this all to Erik Beiser.’’
Arcia arrived Friday to be part of the players’ delegation for TwinsFest. He was sitting in the lobby at the Loews Hotel early in the afternoon, before going over to Target Field to sign autographs.
A gentleman was there to assist with the interview.
“I’m Andy the Barber,’’ he said. “I come in from New York to cut the hair for the players.’’
No hair cutting requires more creativity than Arcia’s. The hairdo still looks a bit odd, but the rest of him has changed.
“I decided to come to Florida right away, to put that season behind and work with Erik,’’ he said. “Before I thought it was all weightlifting. With Erik, there were many different workouts.’’
Arcia said he went home to Venezuela for only three days. His family came to visit in Fort Myers for a time, including his younger brother Orlando, a shortstop and the No. 1-rated prospect in Milwaukee’s farm system.
Asked if he felt his brother would be in the big leagues this season, Oswaldo nodded his head. As for his chance with the Twins, Oswaldo responded in Spanish and Andy the Barber relayed the answer:
“He knows what he can do with the glove. He knows what he can do with the bat. He has worked hard every day to be in the big leagues.’’
Ryan was in Fort Myers last week for a scouting meeting. While there, he heard good reviews of Arcia’s offseason effort to put behind an awful season.
“We’re not writing off Arcia,’’ Ryan said. “We can use a bat like that on the bench.’’
The general manager paused and added: “Or in the lineup.’’