Wetmore: 5 thoughts on new Twins Kennys Vargas and Jordan Schafer
MINNEAPOLIS - Kennys Vargas stole the show in his first home game in a Twins uniform. The large switch hitter put a ball out to right field for a three-run home run as the Twins beat the Padres, 3-1. Seven other Twins in history homered in their first career home game.
This column presents 5 thoughts from Tuesday's game.
As always, feel free to ask questions or make 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. Kurt Suzuki made a diving play at the plate to apply a tag on Yasmani Grandal to keep the game scoreless in the second inning.
Grandal had singled and Yonder Alonso doubled to right field. Right fielder Oswaldo Arcia took too sharp an angle as he pursued the ball to his right. It got over his head and he had to field it after it bounced off the wall. But he made a strong throw back to the infield, and Brian Dozier relayed it to the plate, where Suzuki needed to take a few steps up the third base line to catch it. Once he gloved the throw, Suzuki turned over his left shoulder and dove between a sliding Grandal and home plate, tagging Grandal before the runner touched the plate.
2. Kennys Vargas made a smart decision in the field to make a play that ended the third inning. With a runner on first and two outs, Seth Smith hit a tapper up the first base line. It appeared destined to kick foul before it reached first base, and Smith hardly left the batter's box on the slow roller. But Vargas charged in hard for a few steps and fielded the ball before it had a chance to go foul.
That will be an interesting development the next two months, if Vargas indeed is in Minnesota to stay. Can he field the position well enough to warrant regular playing time when Joe Mauer returns? The Twins could also have an available DH spot by that time.
If things break well for the Twins, they may have a logjam in the next couple of years at first base/DH. Joe Mauer, Kennys Vargas, Miguel Sano and Josmil Pinto all conceivably could wind up as good hitters at first base or DH. That's to say nothing of guys like Chris Parmelee and Chris Colabello.
2b. Vargas also smacked his first Major League home run, a three-run shot batting left handed in the sixth inning. He drilled Jesse Hahn's curveball out to right field. That's a good sign, because he struck out in the first inning when he was way out in front of Hahn's curve ball. He said he was looking for something offspeed in the sixth inning because of how Hahn pitched to Josh Willingham a batter before Vargas.
How Vargas handles breaking pitches will be another adjustment that will be interesting to follow.
2c. Vargas must like to hit an awful lot. He carried a bat -- instead of his glove -- out with him to the outfield while he was shagging fly balls during batting practice.
Ron Gardenhire said before the game that Vargas told him he thinks the ball carries well at Target Field, which would make him the first hitter to say that, according to the manager. Vargas hit a few deep drives in batting practice, but also showed at least that one sign that this is his first time in the big leagues.
"We're going to already have a talk," Gardenhire said before the game. "He's carrying a bat out there in the outfield [during batting practice] instead of a glove. That was a first no-no. I didn't say anything to him because I want him to actually enjoy himself but eventually we'll get the bat out of his hand when we go to the outfield to shag, we'll carry a glove.
"But that does tell you a little bit about what he likes to do."
3. New Twins outfielder Jordan Schafer brings speed, and that was on display Tuesday in his Twins debut. Schafer singled in his first plate appearance since the Twins claimed him off waivers from the Braves. Then he stole second base. But his speed got the best of him.
With nobody out, Danny Santana grounded right at Schafer, who was standing in front of the shortstop. Schafer took off for third and was thrown out for the first out at third base.
There are exceptions, but generally speaking I don't like to see players try to take third on a ground ball hit in front of them in a non-force situation. If Santana's ball was hit softer, for example, I could see Schafer trying to make a run at third. But in this situation it seemed like an unnecessary gamble.
3b. Aside from his speed, Schafer also adds flexibility. He'll give the Twins the opportunity to take an extended look at Danny Santana as a shortstop if they so choose.
4. Phil Hughes had nine strikeouts in six innings Tuesday. His first five victims all were caught looking. He was using front-door cutters effectively to right-handed batters. He left after six innings in part because of his pitch count (99) and in part because he had a busted finger nail on his right index finger, the result of throwing his "spike" curve ball. Hughes said the problem cropped up in a bullpen session and is not abnormal for him, it just continued to get worse with each curve he threw.
He said it won't prevent him from making his next start.
5. A couple rehabbing Twins played for the Cedar Rapids Kernels on Tuesday. Ricky Nolasco pitched 3 2/3 innings and gave up two hits and a walk and two strikeouts. He threw 51 pitches, 30 for strikes.
Joe Mauer was the DH for the Kernels. He went 1-for-3 with a single, a run scored, and grounded into a double play.
--Should the Twins give their prospects seasoning like the Cubs will do with Javier Baez?
--One likely reason the Twins are waiting to call up Tommy Milone.