FORT MYERS, FLA. – The last time Jorge Polanco played shortstop in the minors was 2015, spending 83 games there at Class AA Chattanooga and 19 games at Class AAA Rochester. He did not play a lick there for the Red Wings in 2016.
The Twins, however, ended up using Polanco at shortstop during the second half of the season, and he is expected to be the starter there in spring games.
It led to a question for manager Paul Molitor on Monday: Why didn’t Polanco play shortstop at Rochester last season?
Molitor responded bluntly. “I wish I had a better explanation for you,” he said. “But I think myself, a lot of other people, realized we didn’t handle it the right way.”
Polanco’s case has been somewhat complicated. Signed as a shortstop out of the Dominican Republic in 2009, some Twins evaluators felt he was better suited at second base as he moved up the system. But Polanco would change their minds with bursts of strong play at short.
Polanco entered 2016 as Rochester’s second baseman. The Twins usually move their infielders around in the minors, but that didn’t happen with Polanco. Meanwhile, the Twins went from having Eduardo Escobar at short to Eduardo Nunez. When Nunez was traded to San Francisco in July, the Twins needed a shortstop. They went with Polanco despite giving him no time at short at Rochester.
“It’s not the first time that we’ve had situations where guys have come up here and end up playing where we haven’t exposed them enough,” Molitor said. “[Former General Manager] Terry [Ryan] was always about playing guys around down there, and either managers get caught up in winning or we don’t have enough foresight to what possibly could happen. Sometimes you are going to miss them. That one probably maybe seemed a little more obvious that we should have had covered. Unless [Brian] Dozier got traded.
“Part of it, too, was that a lot of people in our evaluation, some people weren’t convinced that he was ever going to play a game in the big leagues at shortstop. Part of the reason to try to make him the best second baseman possible. Things happen.”
Polanco’s offensive potential — he batted .288 with four homers and 27 RBI in 68 games with the Twins — makes a strong case for the switch hitter to remain in the lineup at short. He also committed 15 errors, and his arm is considered average. But the Twins appear committed to giving Polanco time to polish his skills there. Which looks like something that should have been handled at Rochester.
• Players association chief Tony Clark will make his annual appearance at camp Tuesday when he addresses the players following their workout.
Zack Granite, outfielder
2016 stats: Batted .295 with four homers and 51 RBI in 127 games at Class AA Chattanooga.
Acquired: Selected in the 14th round of the 2013 draft.
Role: Has a chance to start the season at Class AAA Rochester.
Did you know? Last year’s Twins Minor League Player of the Year, Granite is from Staten Island, N.Y., and hit .299 in 156 career games at Seton Hall.
La Velle E. Neal III