Terry Ryan not interested in trying new positions for Vargas or Mauer
MINNEAPOLIS -- As the Twins evaluate the pieces on their roster and decide which players will have a role in 2015, first base is one of the most interesting spots on the diamond.
Although it wasn't the smoothest transition from catcher to full-time first baseman, Joe Mauer seems to be improving his fielding at first base. And if he can continue hitting the way he has recently and gets on base 40 percent of the time, he'll have value.
The powerful switch-hitting Kennys Vargas, meanwhile, hit another home run Thursday. He's hitting .280/.321/.427 in in 78 plate appearances and can realistically only play first base or designated hitter.
Terry Ryan doesn't think so. He said this week that he sees enough plate appearances there for each player in 2015, provided Vargas can stick. He said that between first base and DH, "We've got room for both of them."
If Vargas continues his hitting and sticks in the big leagues, would Ryan look to find another position for him to get his bat in the lineup on days Mauer plays first?
"I don't think so," Ryan said. "Because of how big of a man he is. Consequently, he's not fleet of foot. If you were to put him in another spot, you'd have to think about third base more than the outfield for me just because of his running speed, and I don't think that's going to work at all."
"He's got a good arm. His agility, his ability to cover the bag at third would be very questionable," Ryan said.
The Twins might have their third baseman of the future in Miguel Sano, provided he can play well enough defensively to stay at the position. Trevor Plouffe has hit .241/.310/.395 with improved defense this season as the team's regular third baseman. He has two seasons of team control remaining.
And what if Josmil Pinto can hit in the Majors but isn't able to stick behind the plate as a catcher? Could first base/DH be a role he'd play, too?
With a number of players slated for the infield corners, and relatively fewer locks in the outfield, some wonder if it would make sense to find a different position for Mauer. He has a strong arm and although his acceleration doesn't stand out, he's not slow.
But Ryan dismissed that idea almost immediately when asked about it this week.
"No. He's a first baseman. We're in good shape over there," Ryan said. He went so far as to say that with time Mauer could be considered one of the elite fielders at the position.
"He's starting to get better over there," Ryan said. "He's improving daily. He's a great target, he's got very good hands, he's athletic, he's got enough agility. Probably at some point in his career you're going to start talking about that upper echelon with the defense over at first base."