Jake Cave spent Sunday morning taking batting practice with Joe Mauer, who he thinks is pretty cool. He hit a double just beyond the reach of Mike Trout, another player he admires, in the afternoon. And he finished 3-for-4 in only his fourth major league game — his first start since being recalled on Saturday. Needless to say, it was a good day for Mr. Cave, who helped secure the Minnesota Twins 7-5 win over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
“Obviously that first call-up is the first-ever, so there were probably some more nerves up there,” said Cave, who hit a homer in his first at-bat in the majors. “I know the guys in the clubhouse a little more, was around them for about a week before, so maybe a little bit more comfortable.”
Cave struck out looking in his first at-bat, but singled in a run in the fifth, homered off reliever Jim Johnson in the sixth and had a double in the eighth.
“Going into my second at-bat, runner in scoring position, I knew that he didn’t really have anything hard, I just knew he had good stuff,” said Cave. “So I was just like, ‘Hey, stay through it. Whatever you do, stay through it.’ Put the ball in play, good things happen, stay through a good change-up and it got through the hole. So in that first at-bat, I got him that time.”
Cave pinch-hit in the ninth inning on Saturday and struck out.
“I had a tough pinch-hit last night in the game,” he said. “Came over, got the start today, didn’t let it affect me, just had to go out there and play hard and compete — that’s all you can ever do.”
Manager Paul Molitor went back to him, however, hitting him in the 8-hole on Sunday.
“I threw him in there yesterday. It was a tough spot for a young player to pinch-hit with the game on the line,” said Molitor. “I think obviously just being familiar with the environment and knowing how it works. He knows the ballpark a little bit better. He’s been taking good at-bats down there. We know there’s some pop in the bat. You go oppo today, that was impressive.”
Cave missed batting practice on Saturday because he was flying in from the Twins Triple-A affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., but he got in extra BP today when Mauer asked him to mix in with him before the game.
“I just knew I was in there today, and I had a travel day yesterday, didn’t get any BP or anything like that,” he said. “And Mauer needed some breathers when he was swinging, so I was like, yeah please, I’d love to do that.
“Plus to hit with Joe Mauer, it would be pretty awesome.”
Cave’s sixth inning, opposite field blast tacked on two insurance runs to make it 7-3, but the double he hit just over Trout’s head in the eighth held special meaning for him.
“I didn’t know, I just knew I hit it well,” he said when asked if he thought Trout would get to it. “I put my head down and obviously I know who’s out there in center field. I saw him kind of jump and I didn’t see the ball, but I heard the crowd start cheering, so I was like, ‘Oh, I think that ball got by him.’ So that was cool.
“I know I’m probably not allowed to say this, but he’s probably my favorite player. So to be able to hit some balls out there to him today and to be on the same field as him, it was an honor, really.”
How Cave fits in with the Twins current outfield is interesting, to say the least. He may be in competition with Ryan LaMarre, who has hit well in spurts and can play center, for the fourth outfield spot. He could only be up here while Byron Buxton recovers from his toe injury, but Molitor suggested maybe there’s a larger role for Cave if he continues to hit like he has.
“Byron’s doing better, but for now, we’ve got to kind of mix and match with maybe a little platoon out there, and maybe give him a chance against some of these righties,” he said, “we’ll see, particularly the last day in Detroit and Cleveland.”
Time will tell, but for now Cave — who was designated for assignment by the New York Yankees right before the season started, and came over in a trade for minor league pitcher Luis Gil — has an opportunity to prove he belongs in the major leagues.
“I mean, obviously the things you can’t control, you can’t really dwell on,” he said. “But, you know, I guess it does feel good that, you know, not only was I DFA’d, but that the Twins liked me enough to trade for me and keep me on the roster. To be able to come up and show that I deserve to be here, it does feel really good, yeah.
“It’s what I’ve wanted to do my whole life is be a big-league baseball player — now I’m here,” he added. “I can’t control what the other pitcher is gonna throw at me; can’t control what happens after I hit the ball. All I can control is if I play hard and I compete.
“I think if you do that consistently, you have some success, and I think that’s what the great players have done.”