CHICAGO -- More from the finale of a weeklong, wearying road trip:
I wrote for tomorrow’s paper about Terry Ryan and his difficult decisions coming up, but he said a few other things that are worth considering. Essentially, I asked the Twins’ general manager whether he intends to use this season as a training ground for young players, given the last-place record. He said no, “I don’t believe in that,” and gave a couple of reasons.
“I don’t want a guy to get buried up here,” he said, and though he mentioned no names, some observers believe Aaron Hicks’ career might have been different had he not been given a major-league roster spot in 2013, before he had been to Triple-A. “I’ve got to protect a player from himself on occasion,” Ryan said.
And there’s another factor that he felt strongly about: Just because the team isn’t winning, doesn’t mean he will allow it to stop trying to win.
“I don’t believe in ‘Let’s let him learn up here.’ I don’t like that at all,” Ryan said. “There are 24 other players on this team that want to win baseball games. … If a guy isn’t helping a cause [but keeps playing], the other 24 guys see that. And it’s not right.”
That said, Ryan also had some interesting things to say about Byron Buxton, who doubled and scored easily on a sharp single Thursday, but also struck out twice. He’s batting .193 with 59 strikeouts in 42 games, but the general manager clearly believes Buxton is helping the team, even as he is occasionally overpowered by good pitching.
“[People] probably equate his progress with the bat only. But his defense, that helps us here. We’re willing to live with some of the things that go on with that bat,” Ryan said. “As long as he stays in the strike zone, he has a chance to be a figure in that lineup. We’ve got him down in that nine-hole [in the lineup] — all he’s got to do is keep the chains moving, and he’ll be fine.”
I also wrote about the difficult decision the Twins have about what to do with Byung Ho Park. Ryan pointed out that it’s tough enough being in the major leagues. Trying to succeed when you’ve never seen pitchers like 100-mph specialist like Aroldis Chapman or Dellin Betances, though, just compounds the problem.
“Everybody knows what it’s like to struggle at the major-league level. And here’s a guy that’s never seen most of the pitching he’s facing,” Ryan said. “We’re trying to work with him, we’re trying to help him, we’re trying with video, we’re trying with voices. We’ve got a Hall of Fame player in that managerial chair who’s gone through his share of these types of ordeals, maybe not to this extent.”
That manager, Paul Molitor, can indeed empathize with Park.
“I know it’s been burdensome to him, not to perform up to the way he had hoped to,” Molitor said. “So it’s tough. He’s a guy who, somewhat culturally and somewhat just being a prideful man, wants to make the Twins look good and worries about letting people down. I’m just trying to keep him as strong mentally as we can.”
Tommy Milone seemed depressed by his short start on Thursday, because he felt like he was accomplishing one of his chief goals: Get ahead of hitters.
Milone threw 13 first-pitch strikes to 20 hitters. That’s normally a formula for success, but Milone got raked, giving up nine hits and five runs.
“I was trying to get ahead. I felt like I made some good pitches that fell in for hits, that weren’t hit that hard,” he said. “But that’s kind of how it’s been going lately.”
Four times, Milone got ahead of a hitter 0-and-2 but gave up a hit anyway.
“One of my goals was to pitch from ahead,” Milone said, “but when I got there, I couldn’t put hitters away.”
Said manager Paul Molitor, “They found ways to put balls in plays. The 0-2, 1-2 hits are the ones that come back to bite you.”
— Neil Ramirez got Milone out of a bases-loaded jam with a double play ball in the fourth inning, then pitched two scoreless innings of relief. Ryan Pressly also had a quick inning of relief.
— White Sox rookie Tim Anderson went 4-for-3, but the real story was hit other turn at bat: In the fourth inning, he drew his first walk in 85 plate appearances. That’s a remarkable streak for a potential leadoff hitter.
— Brian Dozier’s fourth-inning home run, his fifth on this road trip, extended his streak to 11 games with an extra-base hit. Since 2000, only Alex Rodriguez and Bobby Abreu have equaled that, and they did it 10 years ago. Only Chipper Jones, who had a 14-game streak in 2004, had had a longer one since 2000.