Park’s slam helps Minnesota Twins sting Rays
How can you not be excited about the prospects of designated hitter Byung Ho Park smashing home runs for the Minnesota Twins like the one he hit on Sunday?
In what was another successful offensive showing for the Twins, the team picked up its third win with a 5-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays. The real highlight of the day was Park’s grand slam that traveled to deep left center and displayed the power the Twins were expecting to get out of him when they signed him this offseason.
Pitcher Kyle Gibson tossed two scoreless innings, allowing two hits while striking out one. The game was really never as close as the score suggested as the Twins held the Rays to just one run until finally breaking through with three runs in the ninth against reliever Aaron Thompson.
But let’s get back to Park and that home run. It’s a very positive sign that Park has been able to rebound from a three strikeout debut this quickly. Sure he’s hitting .182 but since his first game of the spring, he has only struck out once and has shown he can make contact with the ball.
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For someone who is basically a rookie to Major League pitching, I’ll take these strides, especially when this gradual improvement is happening during the spring. Park’s play has given me confidence that we should see him become a major factor in the Twins’ offense this season.
It also plays into my personal preference that manager Paul Molitor should give the cleanup spot to Park. In a perfect world, first baseman Joe Mauer would move to the No. 2 hole with outfielder Miguel Sano hitting third, Park hitting cleanup and third baseman Trevor Plouffe hitting fifth.
Sano’s ability to not only take walks but drive in runs makes him my favorite and what better protection behind him than Park?
Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself as this is, of course, just Spring Training and it’s still a bit early to tell whether or not Park will pan out but that home run was just an absolute blast and hopefully it’s a sign of things to come.
-Once again, the starting pitching was solid. Gibson not only pitched two scoreless but did so against a lineup mostly made up of players the Rays should break camp with. In addition to that, the bullpen was equally impressive. With the exception of Thompson’s three-run ninth, the bullpen allowed just one unearned run in the third inning off closer Glen Perkins.
-Infielder Danny Santana once again struggled with an 0-for-3, two strikeout day. Without any other option aside from making the big league roster out of Spring Training and expectations of making him a super utility player, continued play like this could force the Twins to look elsewhere, especially with infielder Eduardo Nunez hitting so well.
-The fourth outfielder battle is heating up. Carlos Quentin, Oswaldo Arcia, Joe Benson and Max Kepler all saw action and so far no one is really running away with it. Kepler came in and replaced Park at first base, but so far there is no clear favorite.
The Twins visit the Baltimore Orioles on Monday at 1:05 EST/12:05 CT.