Night of the New Twins
Welcome to Minnesota, Liam Hendriks, Joe Benson, and Chris Parmelee.
The Twins had triplets on Tuesday night. Though the game against Chicago was a snoozefest, as the Twins lost 3-0 and failed to score a run for a second consecutive game, the trio of MLB debuts gave fans something to talk about and a reason to be optimistic about the future.
Two months ago, all three men were on the roster of the AA New Britain Rock Cats. After going 8-2 with a stellar 2.70 ERA in New Britain, Hendriks received a call up to AAA Rochester in July. He posted a 4-4 record and a 4.56 ERA for the struggling Rochester squad. Parmelee and Benson stayed with the Rock Cats until the very end, when they were eliminated from AA playoff consideration earlier this week. With New Britain, Benson had a .285/.388/.495 line and 15 homers despite missing a month with an injury. Parmelee, the Twins’ first round draft pick from 2006, was .387/.366/.436 with 13 homers.
Parmelee probably had the strongest night of the three youngsters. He smashed a sharp single to center field to open the second inning, and he added another hard line drive single in the fourth. Unfortuunately, the rest of the Twins lineup – composed mostly of players who haven’t been in the Major Leagues much longer than Parmelee – failed to bring him in to score both times.
Hendriks pitched quite well, lasting seven innings and allowing three runs on four hits and three walks. Despite the quality start, he was tagged for the loss, the latest victim of the Twins’ near total lack of run support this season. The 22 year old Australian threw 99 pitches and struck out four White Sox, thanks in part to the excessively generous strike zone of umpire Brian Runge.
Benson’s debut was not quite as smooth as the others. He started off well when he opened the game with an eight pitch at bat and a walk. In the third inning he hit the ball hard but lined out to center. He grounded out to third in the fifth and struck out in the seventh, finishing an 0-3 night. Benson’s nerves likely got the best of him in the fifth inning. Alejandro DeAza hit a sinking liner to center field and Benson dived for what would have been a highlight reel catch. Instead, the ball bounced past the promising young outfielder for a gift triple.
Aside from the defensive misplay, the three young players showed signs of doing things The Twins Way. While the team as a whole has failed to play fundamentally sound baseball, Parmelee, Benson, and Hendriks gave reason to hope those troubles will end. After walking in the first, Benson was out on Trevor Plouffe‘s grounder to second base. Before he left, though, Benson executed a textbook takeout slide, one guaranteed to give Tsuyoshi Nishioka recurring nightmares. He forced Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez to bobble the ball, preventing a throw to first. Parmelee showed his willingness to eke out extra bases when he alertly scampered to second base on a wild pitch in the fourth inning, even though the ball barely got away from the catcher. Finally, Hendriks followed the recipe that made Brad Radke a succesful pitcher for more than a decade by throwing strikes and hitting his spots.
Nobody can tell how the careers of Benson, Parmelee, and Hendriks will turn out. They could all end up All Stars, or they could all be out of baseball in two years. But for one night, these three prospects gave Twins fans some hope for the future.