Greetings from Target Field, where it’s family day. There’s pictures of the players and their spouses, significant others and children displayed on the big board.
Robbie Grossman and Trevor Plouffe are out of the lineup today. Grossman has come back to earth, hitting .269/.399/.478 after his red-hot start with the team, and Molitor is trying to get Plouffe back to 100 percent.
“He’s doing fine. I think he’s still a little beat up. I know he wanted to play today,” said Twins manager Paul Molitor, who added that Plouffe was available. “I thought it was a good opportunity to get [Eduardo] Escobar back in there and give him a break, as far as defense.”
Grossman is a switch-hitter, but his splits are quite drastic. He’s hitting .207/.387/.378 vs. righties and .365/.421/.635 vs. lefties.
“We got a lefty in tomorrow,” said Molitor, referring to Rangers starter Cole Hamels, “so we’ll get Robbie back in there tomorrow for sure.”
It’s Tyler Duffey (3-6, 5.59 ERA) vs. righty Chi Chi Gonzalez (0-0, 9.00 ERA) today. Duffey nearly lost his spot in the rotation after going 3.0 innings against the lowly Philadelphia Phillies on June 21. But he only gave up two hits and one earned run against the Yankees in New York to secure this start, at least.
“We all want to see him hopefully continue,” said Molitor. “We were really encouraged by the way he pitched, but you have to start doing [that in] more than one game.
“It was a good starting point, given the circumstances — maybe a little extra pressure of not knowing what his future was in terms of the short-term in the rotation.”
As for why he had success, he says that he was more aggressive in the Bronx.
“It was a nice response, but what we saw was a guy that was composed and attacked,” said Molitor. “We saw a better changeup than we saw in his other starts, but I thought mostly his ability to throw the fastball was the biggest key.”
Duffey is once again paired with Juan Centeno, but Molitor says he would like to avoid using exclusive pitcher-catcher matchups going forward.
“I try not to be a guy who goes too gung-ho on having a catcher catch a certain pitcher,” he said.
“It works out that way sometimes. Kurt [Suzuki], [has played] four days in a row, including every game in Chicago, including a day game after a night game. So in addition to the fact that Juan caught him last time, which was really good, it was time for Kurt to get a break as well.”
Opportunity for Danny Santana
Santana is being moved into a super-utility role, as opposed to an everyday outfielder, and will patrol left field today with Grossman out of the lineup.
“I think that Danny’s gained confidence all around the field. It’s been a process, being the infielder and then being forced into centerfield a couple years ago, and he got exposed to some other spots, including the corner outfield spots,” said Molitor.
“He’s just a guy that, being a versatile utility guy, we’re looking for times to get him at-bats in a given game. He had a nice game in New York when he played, he got the home run and he had some other quality at-bats.”
Molitor says that is might not be his strongest position, but that he is more than capable, athletically, to handle a corner outfield spot.
“I think that a day game today, he can run around, he’s athletic, he’s learning how to use what he can do as an advantage whenever he’s in the lineup,” he said.
“Well, he’s still young enough to where I don’t know if he’s gonna be locked into that spot”
Asked if the second half of the season is important for Santana in terms of establishing himself as the team’s super-utility guy of the future, Molitor demurred a bit.
“Well, he’s still young enough to where I don’t know if he’s gonna be locked into that spot,” he said, “I don’t know how things are gonna play out and how much of your roster changes when you look at who’s playing where for us right now.”
He added that the roster has changed a lot and is not exactly what he planned on coming out of Spring Training.
“It’s not very close to how we had it drawn out coming out of spring,” he said. “But I think for him, to be here and have an ability to try and help us in the best capacity, this is where it makes the most sense for him right now.
“Play around, come off the bench. We’re working on his right-handed swing a little bit more, his left-handed swing’s been pretty good for the most part.
“I’m hoping that I get a chance to expose him to a little more experience wherever his position may be in the second half.”
Sano’s barehanded plays becoming routine
Sano made an impressive barehanded play at third to toss Adrian Beltre out at first yesterday, perhaps a sign that he’s ready to play there on a regular basis.
Molitor said it was well executed, but that he’s seen Sano do that before.
“Well, I think that me being around him, and trying to help him in the minor leagues as a third baseman, as a defender, we saw progress in a lot of areas, but that was one play that really didn’t need a lot of polishing,” he said.
“He just has a lot of confidence on that play, not only in reaction to the ball, but to barehand it.
“He’s very accurate with that side throw on the move, and he gets a lot on it. I’m hoping that as he gets more experience out there, that everything gets more consistent. But that’s that’s one play that he can really make.”
Be sure to follow Brandon (@Brandon_Warne) and I (@tschreier3) as well as Cold Omaha (@ColdOmahaMN) for Twins coverage all season long.