FORT MYERS, FLA. – If there’s anyone who needed a fresh start this spring training, it was Byung Ho Park.
He arrived to Twins camp last season with some fanfare and big expectations. But he slumped horribly, batted .191 in 62 games, was sent to the minors and had his season ended by hand surgery.
Park reported to camp this year with no fanfare. In the Twins’ Grapefruit League-opening 3-1 loss to Tampa Bay at Hammond Stadium on Friday night, he went 2-for-2 with a single to center off a sinker in the second and a double to left off a four-seam fastball in the fourth.
“I know that these spring training games are very important for me,” said Park, 30. “I put a lot of work in. I’m putting a lot of effort in every time I’m in the lineup.”
His hand is healthy. He’s spending a little less time in the batting cage but likes where his swing is at. He struggled with major league fastballs last season, began to start his swing sooner to try to hit them, then was done in by breaking balls. He went back to South Korea over the offseason and worked on adjustments.
“I really hope my change works in this highest level of baseball,” he said.
Losing a colleague
New Twins GM Thad Levine worked with Texas scout Jose Luis Felomina, who died from cancer Thursday at age 50.
Levine knew Felomina well from their days with the Rangers. Felomina was the Rangers scout in Curacao and was responsible for the signing of several players, including Texas infielder Jurickson Profar.
“It is a tragedy,” Levine said of Felomina, who had been with the Rangers since 2008. “I believe in this instance that he is in a much better place. He had been battling cancer for the last few years.”
E6 not a good start
The Twins want to leave Fort Myers feeling good about Jorge Polanco as their shortstop. Friday wasn’t that day.
Rays catcher Luke Maile reached when Polanco’s throw from short skipped by Kennys Vargas at first for an error. Polanco made the stop on Maile’s grounder but appeared to hurry his throw. A good throw would have retired Maile easily.
Some in the organization believe Polanco is better suited at second base because of his arm strength. That’s not possible with Brian Dozier, the Twins’ best offensive player, there.
• Molitor indicated that Dozier will make his spring training debut Sunday when the Twins play host to the Nationals.
• Former Twins GM Terry Ryan, now a scout for the Phillies, was at Friday’s game.
• Dustin Morse, the Twins senior director of communications, is temporarily leaving the team Sunday to be the press officer for Team Netherlands during the World Baseball Classic. The Dutch open play on March 7.
• A moment of silence was held before the game for broadcaster Rod Simons, Twins pitching prospect Yorman Landa, Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura and Tigers owner Mike Ilitch, who all died this offseason. Simons died Monday in Fort Myers while covering spring training.
Phil Hughes will take the mound Saturday as the Twins play the Red Sox at JetBlue Park. Lefthander Roenis Elias will start for the Red Sox.
La VELLE E. NEAL III