Before joining the Twins, pitching coach Neil Allen spent four seasons coaching the Rays’ top farm team, Class AAA Durham. While he had arms such as Alex Cobb, Chris Archer, Matt Moore and others to work with, Allen also proved that he could get a lot out of an entire staff.
First-year Rays third base coach Charlie Montoyo was Durham’s manager during Allen’s time there.
“Three years ago, our pitching wasn’t very good, like at all,” Montoyo said Friday. “He stayed positive and kept working with the guys and that’s when I found out this guy is good. He’s going to try to help whoever.”
The Twins hired Allen over the offseason, and he has been a hit with his pitchers so far. A big believer in the changeup, Allen has helped Twins pitchers perfect theirs, or at least have the confidence to use it more.
“He’s a good human being,” Montoyo said. “He cares about all of his pitchers, very positive. When I found out he got that job I said good for the Twins, because he’s an outstanding pitching coach. I have nothing bad to say about that guy.”
Allen laughed when told of Montoyo’s comments.
“He’s being kind,” Allen said. “I had the arms to work with.”
Center fielder Aaron Hicks started his fourth game in a row since being called up from Class AAA Rochester, going 1-for-3 and scoring the tying run in the Twins’ 3-2 victory over the Rays.
While he is 5-for-14 (.357) in his latest stint with the Twins and has played well in the field, manager Paul Molitor wants to see more.
“What I have tried to watch and have been pleased with so far is that he seems very engaged on the field,” Molitor said. “Defensively, in the dugout, watching, trying to gain an edge. Those are the things he needs to do to be a consistent player.”
Hicks is still trying to tap into his potential after two years of failing to stick in the majors.
“Just to become more complete in the way he goes about his game and realizing what he can bring to a team to help them win on that given day,” Molitor said.
Rehab stint for Fien
Thanks largely to Aaron Thompson and Blaine Boyer, the Twins have been able to lock down games despite Casey Fien being on the 15-day disabled list because of shoulder soreness. It was believed Fien would be ready as soon as his 15 days were up. The 15 days have come and gone, but the righthander remains on the DL.
Fien is expected to throw in the bullpen in the next few days. After a couple of bullpen sessions, he will head out on a minor league rehabilitation assignment.
The cause of the shoulder problem was a weak muscle that Fien has since strengthened.
• Class AAA Rochester needs a starter Saturday, so the Twins are promoting a pitcher to the Red Wings from Class A Fort Myers. Chih-Wei Hu, a 21-year-old righthander from Taiwan who will be on his regular day to pitch, will start against Lehigh Valley. “We feel he can handle it,” Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said.
• Twins outfielder Shane Robinson remains on the family emergency list, but Ryan expects him to rejoin the team soon.
• Eduardo Nunez (left oblique) will hit on the field Saturday, and there’s a chance he will begin a rehabilitation assignment soon.
• Righthander Tim Stauffer (strained intercostal) has made two appearances at Rochester during his rehabilitation assignment but “still has time to go,’’ Ryan said.