BRADENTON, FLA. — There’s little doubt the Minnesota Twins have brought the sticks to Grapefruit League action, as they hit five home runs on Saturday in a 10-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates at LECOM Park.
Three of those home runs came in the fifth inning against Pirates reliever Keone Kela, who figures to throw many high-leverage spots this season. Adam Rosales continued his sizzling spring with a homer into the seats in left, Mitch Garver followed with a homer to score Luis Arraez (who had just doubled) and Michael Reed smashed a no-doubter beyond the fence in dead center.
Reed’s home run was especially impressive as the third in the bunch, a majestic blast that covered every bit of 400 feet — and then some.
“He’s feeling pretty good,” said manager Rocco Baldelli of Reed, the 26-year-old outfielder who made his Twins debut on Saturday.
He was also born in Maplewood, for what it’s worth.
“He’s a good athlete,” Baldelli continued. “I’ve been looking forward to watching him play. He can swing the bat a little bit and he can run, as well. He’s a big, strong guy and when you watch him move around you might not realize it — and we haven’t seen a lot of him this spring — but when he gets loose and starts opening it up he’s a guy that has strength and has performed well offensively in his career.
“And he can run well, which is another thing he brings to the table.”
The other homers were a three-run bomb by Lamonte Wade to open the scoring in the second inning, and a three-run homer by non-roster infielder Joe Cronin in the eighth.
The Pirates got on the board in the eighth when center fielder Jason Martin hit a wicked smash that narrowly missed catching first baseman Wynston Sawyer in the face, and ultimately rolled to the wall in right field for a triple. Martin scored on a sac fly off the bat of Christian Kelley, but that was all the offense mustered for the afternoon.
Saturday’s outburst on offense was certainly a sight to behold, but the pitching was almost equally as impressive. Martin Perez took the mound and tossed four innings of shutout ball, fanning three batters while hitting 97 mph on the gun with his fastball and 91 with a cutter he said he’ll use to “put hitters away.”
It’s been a small sample size for sure, but Perez has maintained his velocity well into starts — he was still hitting the mid-90s in the fourth inning — and so far the results have followed.
At some point, it can become who he is moving forward, Baldelli said.
“This is more what we’ve seen,” said Baldelli. “He’s been this guy since he’s shown up to camp. This is kind of what we believe that he is and he can be. He’s playing with all these different things that we’ve been talking about. He’s mixing them all in. These outings are going very well. I think everyone, including Martin, is very happy with them but truthfully we almost have to extend the outings a little bit because he’s done such a good job of throwing innings and not having to even use the number of pitches that you would normally allot for him.”
Perez is especially excited about his progress.
“I’m happy to do what I’ve been doing, and I’m excited,” the left-hander said after his outing. “I think the way I’ve thrown the ball is really good for me and for my teammates, too. I’ve got a good team, and you’ve got to stay strong.”
Trevor Hildenberger followed with a scoreless inning of relief, with Fernando Romero adding a pair of clean frames before Chase De Jong finished things off.
There’s clearly excitement in the organization about how Romero is going to be used this season.
“It’s hard not to be excited about what we’ve seen from him,” said Baldelli. “He throws pitches that come up 95-96 mph on the radar gun but from the side, these pitches have a ton of action them as well. Sometimes you’re not sure what you really saw until you check the velocity, because he can get that kind of movement on his fastball.
“He did a good job of avoiding the barrel,” Baldelli continued. “He threw strikes; just the kinds of things you’re looking for. He can fill the zone up and have success not pitching to a spot but pitching to an area.”
Notes and Quotes
- There wasn’t much of an update on Miguel Sano, who remains in Minnesota tending to a cut he suffered on his heel over the offseason. “I know Miguel’s been monitored and attended to very closely while he’s been in Minnesota, and I’d expect him to be back here very soon,” Baldelli said during his pregame availability.
- Perez on checking the radar gun while on the mound: “Not a lot. I don’t care how hard I throw. I just want to throw strikes and get quick outs. That’s all of the focus I have during the game.”
- Perez on the last time he felt this good on the mound: “In 2017. That was a year that I didn’t miss any days in the season. Like I said, I just need to throw strikes and believe in what I’ve got.”
- Perez on working with Johan Santana: “I’ve been talking a lot with Johan Santana, and we have a plan. We need to throw a lot of fastballs inside, and my change is going to work better [and/than] my two-seamer. We work inside, and some away is going to be better. You’re going to feel better.”
- Perez on the new/improved cutter: “(It’s working) good. I just threw the ball where I wanted. When I go in, I’m just trying to pound it in and don’t try to do too much and just hit the glove.”
- Baldelli on if Romero could close: “He’s going to be in a situation where he’s going to pitch an inning, he’s going to pitch two innings where he’s not restricted to just a few batters but not a situation where I think we’re going to see him really, really lengthen out.“
- Baldelli on how relievers have responded to potential bullpen roulette to start the season: “We have very unselfish guys. Guys who want to contribute, who want to win. I know for a fact that setting anything that has gone on, conversationally, aside, I know there is a comfort level with knowing when you are going to pitch and there are some people who feel very strongly about that, and there are others that say, ‘let me know when I’m pitching and I’ll go out and pitch.’ As a whole, our guys have been more along those lines, as far as the conversations.”
- Baldelli on having a diverse staff, and how it has helped with his first spring as a manager: “I think it all matters. I think the goal here is to connect with players and to connect with each other. I think we have an ideal staff to do that. I think we can touch many of our players, hopefully in ways that they’ve never been talked to or treated in these ways before. Again, I think we have a phenomenal staff, and it’s just what I think we need to bring our group together and have the success that we want.”