The Twins are a National League team disguised as an American League one. Why? They don’t have a designated hitter.
Ever since Kennys Vargas was sent to Class AAA Rochester on May 17, the Twins have used a hodgepodge of people at DH, including Danny Santana, Eduardo Nunez and Eduardo Escobar.
It makes sense to use the position to rotate Torii Hunter and Joe Mauer through to give them a little bit of a break. Hunter was the DH in Saturday’s 4-2 loss to Milwaukee. But using middle infielders and utility players is not taking advantage of what the DH can do for a team.
The Twins entered Saturday with a slugging percentage of .328 from the position, 13th in the AL. Their three homers were 14th. So were their seven doubles.
They would like to add a DH, but their bullpen has been worked hard lately and they had to start reliever J.R. Graham on Saturday.
“It’s been challenging,” manager Paul Molitor said of how he has had to handle the position. “It is kind of where we are at right now, especially with our hands being forced to use our bullpen. We need depth. We are a little limited on the bench, so we have to rendezvous through the DH and the middle of the lineup for now.”
Vargas entered Saturday batting .326 with three homers and eight RBI in 14 games since being sent down. The Twins want to see him take consistently good at-bats.
Catcher Josmil Pinto could be an option, but he has cooled off after a hot start at Rochester and was batting .247 with six home runs and 24 RBI.
Outfielder Danny Ortiz, not considered to be a top prospect, was batting .285 with seven homers and 34 RBI.
Eventually, the Twins will decide to go back to a 12-man pitching staff and bring up someone who can provide some punch in the lineup. But they have been carrying 13 pitchers on their roster for more than two weeks now.
“We’re looking for people to come up and help us,” Molitor said, “but I don’t think anyone is jumping out at us right now.”
Waiting for the surge
Kurt Suzuki was not in the starting lineup Saturday as Molitor opted to give his starting catcher a break. He pinch hit in the ninth inning but grounded into a game-ending double play, dropping his batting average to .245 with two homers and 15 RBI.
“He’s one of those guys who hasn’t really found his groove the first third of the season,” Molitor said. “He was working hard around the cage in Boston, trying to find that feel he had the majority of last year.”
A lot of things clicked for Suzuki in 2014, when he hit .288 with three homers and 61 RBI and played in his first All-Star Game.
Though his numbers statistics are down, he has remained a reliable bat with runners in scoring position, hitting .297.
“He’s best when he’s hitting the ball up the middle and right field every once in a while,” Molitor said. “He’s going to pull to keep you honest. Hopefully he’s getting on track. I think the one thing you can almost guarantee is that he’s going to put together a good at-bat. You can’t control outcomes all the time, but I know he’s got a plan.”
• Righthander Ricky Nolasco took a cortisone shot in his injured right ankle. He is going to start a throwing program this week and build toward getting back on the mound. That’s when the Twins will find out if the shot worked or not. “I’m not sure we’re going to know until he throws a side session,” General Manager Terry Ryan said.
• Outfielder Jordan Schafer (right medial collateral ligament sprain) has started catching fly balls but still will be out for some time.
• Vikings first-round pick Trae Waynes threw out the ceremonial first pitch Saturday. The cornerback, along with second-round pick Eric Kendricks, also took part in the softball challenge with T.C. Bear and Bernie Brewer. Kendricks belted five home runs to win the contest.