DETROIT – This is how things are going for Robbie Grossman these days.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, Grossman hit towering drives just to the right of center field — which happens to be the deepest part of Comerica Park. Both were hauled in for outs.
“Just the wrong place to hit it,” Grossman joked on Wednesday.
But he also scratched out two infield hits in a three-hit day in Wednesday’s 8-2 victory over the Tigers to raise his season average to .273.
It appears things are evening out for him.
Grossman was 5-for-11 in the series and in 18 games this month is batting .350 with a .459 on-base percentage. Grossman entered the All-Star break with an unimpressive .256 average, but since then he leads the Twins with a .306 batting average and .409 OBP. He’s not hitting for much power, but he’s the only Twins regular with an overall OBP more than .350 at .362.
The Twins roster is expected to look different next year as the team restructures following a season of failed expectations. Grossman’s best chance to spend a fourth season with the club is by showing he can get on base.
“You can tell he’s seeing it because he’s still taking his walks,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “[Wednesday] he got a little fortunate in a couple of balls — one against the shift, then the swinging bunt. Overall his play as of late has given him a chance to hit in the heart of the lineup there, and he’s been producing. Nice to see him finish strong.”
Trades, injuries alter lineup
The trades of Eduardo Escobar and Brian Dozier and injuries to Miguel Sano and Eddie Rosario mean Molitor must get creative with his lineups. And Grossman has been creeping up the batting order — he batted fourth on Wednesday — during his roll.
The loss of the aforementioned players has drastically altered the Twins offense. Logan Forsythe, Jake Cave and Tyler Austin are with the club and getting at-bats no one saw coming at the start of the season.
Grossman, 29, wasn’t expected to see the field as much as he has, given that the Twins felt their outfield of Rosario, Byron Buxton and Max Kepler was in place, and Logan Morrison was signed during spring training to be the primary designated hitter.
Even after the trade deadline roster purge, the Twins wanted to take a good look at Cave and it looked as if Grossman was going to be squeezed for at-bats down the stretch. But the Rosario and Sano injuries have allowed Grossman to get consistent playing time, and he has responded.
“To be honest with you, coming into September and call-ups and different things, I wasn’t sure if his at-bats were going to stay consistent,” Molitor said. “We talked about getting a good look at Austin and with the injuries and things, [Grossman] has been in there pretty much every day and has been taking advantage.”
‘Whatever happens, happens’
The offseason will present a different challenge. Cave enters Friday’s series against the A’s batting .257 with 11 homers and 38 RBI in 82 games since being called up. With Rosario, Buxton and Kepler all expected back in 2019, the Twins might have room for one extra outfielder. Cave has power and can play center but has struck out 90 times.
Grossman is a corner outfielder with a fair arm; he is not a not a power hitter (four home runs in 362 at-bats) but draws walks and is popular in the clubhouse. And the Twins might have other plans for how they provide competition for bench spots.
Also, Grossman is earning $2 million this season and will head into his second year of arbitration during the offseason. Are the Twins willing to give Grossman a raise in what surely will be another bench role?
“I’m not too much worried about that,” Grossman said. “I know what kind of player I am and whatever happens, happens.”
After the Twins wrap up their season on Sept. 30, Grossman will head to his offseason home in Houston, take a couple of weeks off, then start working out at a facility used by other major leaguers Randal Grichuk, Tyler Naquin, Anthony Rendon, George Springer, Nathan Eovaldi, Tyler Duffey and Jed Lowrie.
Then he’ll monitor Twins moves and see if he’s wanted back. He is satisfied that he’s given them something to think about with his solid second half.
“I didn’t get off to the start I would like to have, but that’s baseball,” Grossman said. “In this game, they have a certain way of remembering how you finish rather than how you start.”