While Twins wait for injured players, rookies helping team stay above water
Edouard Julien and Matt Wallner played big roles as the Twins ended a three-game skid on Wednesday
Baseball fans get excited when a rookie comes up and produces at the plate, of course. But sometimes their play in the field is the best indicator of how ready they are for the big leagues.
It’s the split-second-decision making that tells you they’re not bowed by pressure.
Edouardo Julien and Matt Wallner did a little of both in the Minnesota Twins’ 7-1 victory over the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday at Target Field.
Julien started the game with an opposite-field home run off Giants right-hander Anthony DeSclafini, and Wallner, an outfielder from Forest Lake, Minnesota, with a big arm and bat, doubled in a run for a 2-1 lead in the second.
But each also made important defensive plays in the second inning when the Giants were close to tying the score.
In right field with one out, Wallner charged a shallow liner and threw a bullet home to keep Lamonte Wade Jr. from attempting to score the tying run with one out in the first inning. In the second inning, Julien, a second baseman with a potent bat, threw a perfect throw to catcher Ryan Jeffers to nab Casey Schmitt with the potential tying run.
The Giants never evened the score as Minnesota salvaged the final game of a three-game series. The Twins are next host to Toronto for a three-game series starting Friday at 7:10 p.m.
Asked after the game whether the home run or play at the plate stood out more, Julien said, “I’d say a bit of both. It was pretty cool, but the leadoff home run was pretty unique, and it was cool.”
Hemorrhaging key players, the Twins need big contributions from rookies to retain what started Thursday as a 2½-game lead on Detroit in the American League Central. Before Wednesday, the Twins had lost six of eight games, and manager Rocco Baldelli was anticipating the returns of key players such as second baseman Jorge Polanco, reliever Caleb Thielbar and outfielder Max Kepler.
That list now includes shortstop Carlos Correa, who isn’t on the IL but missed the past two games because of a left foot injury the Twins have described at various times as a heel bruise, plantar fasciitis and a muscle strain in the arch. The two-time all-star, who signed a six-year, $200 million contract last spring, had an MRI on Wednesday.
“He’s going to get a bunch of treatment (Thursday) and (we’ll) see exactly what we’re dealing with on Friday,” Baldelli said. “Because I think some of it is going to be (about pain) tolerance.
“We want to see some improvement with the things he’s dealing with right now, both what he’s feeling and what it looks like.”
Also missing Wednesday’s game was Joey Gallo, bothered by hamstring tightness. Because Trevor Larnach was placed on the IL with pneumonia on Tuesday, the Twins played Wednesday without their top run producers — Larnach (27 RBIs), Correa (24) and Gallo (23).
Baldelli said he expected Kepler (hamstring) back soonest of the IL players, but it’s unclear whether the right fielder will need a rehab assignment. He hasn’t played in a game since May 7.
“There’s gonna be a lot happening likely over the next week or two, and that’s OK,” Baldelli said. “What we have to do is just worry about today.”
That will mean more playing time for rookies such as Wallner and Julien. It’s early yet, of course. Jose Miranda was the team’s breakout star and RBI leader as a rookie last season and is back at Class AAA St. Paul struggling to hit. But so far, a large handful of Twins prospects are showing they aren’t overwhelmed by the big leagues — and not just at the plate. That’s big for Julien, a left-handed bat who always has hit.
“I try to work harder than everybody else defensively, and I try to be better every day, and I know that’s a part of my game I’ve got to be better at,” Julien said. “I’ve just got to stop thinking too much about it and just go out there and play.
“I’ve been working hard, and I see a lot of improvement in the past three years, and I’m glad where I’m at, and I’m gonna still keep working hard.”
This story was written by one of our partner news agencies. Forum Communications Company uses content from agencies such as Reuters, Kaiser Health News, Tribune News Service and others to provide a wider range of news to our readers. Learn more about the news services FCC uses here.