OAKLAND, CALIF. – Ehire Adrianza Sr. has been bugging his son about his statistics, specifically doubles. You can be a 20-doubles player, the elder Adrianza keeps telling his son, just bear down and do it. So when the Twins utility man went on a doubles spree this week, smacking four in a span of six at-bats to reach 21 for the season on Friday, Adrianza was looking forward to hearing his father’s reaction.
Sure enough, Ehire Adrianza Sr. texted his son Saturday morning. “He said, ‘You’ve got two more RBIs to go,’ ” Adrianza Jr. said with a laugh. “Now he’s very excited for me to get 40 RBIs. OK, man, I know. I’ll try. It’s not easy.”
Such are the pressures of an everyday major league hitter, and that, finally, is what Adrianza considers himself this season. The 29-year-old Venezuelan, labeled a utility player from the moment he stepped on a big-league diamond with the Giants in 2013, spent the first three months of the Twins season as the regular shortstop, while Jorge Polanco served an 80-game suspension, and he has spent August and September as the regular third baseman, filling in after Eduardo Escobar was traded and Miguel Sano was injured.
Saturday’s game vs. the Athletics was Adrianza’s 109th of the season, and his 78th start, more than double the playing time than he has ever received in his first five seasons. And while he still considers himself a defensive specialist who can hit enough to help his team, he admits he’s happy with his raw numbers this year: a .253 average, 22 doubles and six homers, all in roughly half a season of play. He is four extra-base hits from doubling his career totals in one year.
“I take pride in my numbers. When you’ve never played every day, you don’t expect those numbers,” he said. “So it’s pretty good.”
Especially lately. Over the past three weeks, essentially since Sano suffered a knee injury at Houston, Adrianza has batted .306, with seven doubles and 11 RBI in 13 starts. All that with a shoulder that aches enough that the switch hitter can’t currently hit righthanded against lefthanded pitchers, and legs that require pressurized-circulation treatment to keep the soreness to a minimum.
“He’s contributed nicely, given the fact that we’ve had to call upon him maybe more than we expected, especially here down the stretch. He’s putting together some good at-bats. He’s tried to become a better hitter,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “He’s got a little bit of power, but he’s probably not a guy that should be content, knowing that teams shift [on] him most of the time. Learning to do some things a little bit differently with the bat would give him a better chance. But overall, yeah, I know he’s going to give you good at-bats most times.”
It’s enough to make Adrianza wonder about what his career might have looked like if he had played more while with San Francisco from 2013 to ’16.
“You know, my first year with the Giants, I was kind of upset because they never give me the opportunity to play. I get it — they got [Brandon] Crawford, they got [Joe] Panik, they got [Pablo] Sandoval, they got [Matt] Duffy. It’s a really good team,” Adrianza said. “But I got there when I was 23 years old, and at that age, it was kind of difficult. You want to play. I always thought, you got to keep working, be patient, your time is going to come. But the best thing for me was when they DFA’d [and released] me. Because I don’t know where I’d be if I was still playing with the Giants.”