Wetmore: 5 thoughts on Hicks, 4-out saves, infielders in the outfield
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The Twins took advantage of a lazy play Tigers left fielder Rajai Davis on Sunday to win the series.
Notice the irony that the series turned when an outfielder turned a routine play into an error that allowed the Twins to rally. It wasn't just some guy playing outfield. It was an actual outfielder.
This column presents 5 thoughts from Sunday's game.
As always, feel free to ask any questions or make any observations in the comments. If you have a unique baseball observation during a game, feel free to share it with me on Twitter (@DerekWetmore).
1. It's rarer to see a manager get ejected now that replay has been expanded. Ron Gardenhire found a way Sunday. With the bases loaded, a batted ball hit the runner Austin Jackson going from second to third. Jackson was called out and the ball, by rule, is dead.
Shortstop Eduardo Escobar had flipped the ball to Brian Dozier after it connected with Jackson. That throw beat the runner to second, which made it appear like it should be a double play. Since the ball is dead in that situation, the runner was awarded second base and the Tigers still had the bases loaded.
Gardenhire went to argue and crew chief Joe West tossed him. Terry Steinbach took over as acting manager.
The play proved harmless because Sam Deduno got another ground ball off Davis' bat to end the inning.
2. Aaron Hicks was lifted for pinch-hitter Danny Santana, which is a bad sign for Hicks. Both are switch-hitters, so the Twins didn't gain a platoon-split advantage by replacing Hicks. It likely meant they thought Santana was more likely to get a hit there, and were willing to tolerate the likely defensive downgrade to upgrade the bat.
In 410 Major League plate appearances, Hicks is batting .186/.268/.316.
3. The Twins seem awfully willing to have infielders play in the outfield. Santana, Eduardo Nunez, Chris Colabello, Eduardo Escobar and Jason Bartlett all have played outfield this season. That's a surprisingly high number six weeks into the season.
Injuries to Josh Willingham and Oswaldo Arcia have played a part. To this outside observer, it seems strange to view players without much of a track record as capable outfielders. Then again, Willingham and Arcia didn't set a high standard with their gloves.
4. Josmil Pinto started at catcher and went 2-for-4 with an RBI on the ball Davis allowed to get by him. Two runs scored on the play because Davis didn't get in front of the ball, but rather lazily played it off to the side and it skipped by his glove.
Pinto has been a fabulous hitter since his call-up last September. The fear in this corner when Chris Herrmann was demoted to Triple-A Rochester was that Pinto's playing time would suffer. According to Jack Morris on the FSN telecast, however, Gardenhire said he'll continue to play Pinto regularly, despite not having a third catcher on the roster for emergency situations.
That's a great decision, in my opinion, because Pinto's bat has proven to be one of the best on the team and at his stage of development, a full season of plate appearances should help him. Additionally, one of the most important things the Twins can do in 2014 is establish what they have in each player going forward. They'd like to learn if Brian Dozier is for real, for example, for the purposes of a contract extension discussion. Pinto qualifies as another player they'll need to learn about, and there's no better way to learn about a player than to see him player every day.
(Aaron Hicks is another player they'll have to learn about, although it seems he's going the opposite direction of Dozier and Pinto. See thought 2.)
4(b). While Pinto's bat has been great he makes you appreciate what Kurt Suzuki adds behind the plate. Pinto allowed a passed ball on a pitch that appeared to be very catchable that glance off his glove on its way to the backstop. And when he blocks pitches, he's not as in control of where the ball ends up as is Suzuki. To borrow a term used for hockey goalies, Suzuki seems to control his rebounds very well. Either he deadens the ball so he doesn't have to move to pick it up or he angles his torso so that he knows exactly where the ball will deflect. Pinto could use some work in that area based on the few opportunities I've seen this season.
5. Glen Perkins got a four-out save, which you don't see very often. Setup man Casey Fien was hit hard by a batted ball and had to leave the game with two outs in the eighth and the Twins clinging to one-run lead.
I think it's smart for a team to use its best pitcher in the highest leverage situations, and the Twins did that Sunday. Perkins warmed up to face lefty Don Kelly, but the Tigers pinch-hit righty Nick Castellanos. Perkins got him out and then got three outs in the ninth for the save. There's nothing that dictates the closer must pitch only one inning and it must be the ninth inning.
Bonus thought for Mother's Day: Regular readers of these 5 thoughts columns probably grew tired of the two-hole discussion regarding the Twins' batting order. Since I critiqued before I'm compelled to give credit now that on-base machine Joe Mauer is batting second.