As the Minnesota Twins continue to lose games, it is time to start prioritizing defense and keep Robbie Grossman on the bench to start games.
The Minnesota Twins dropped to 10-17 Thursday night after losing on a walk-off home run to the Chicago White Sox. In that stretch manager Paul Molitor has continued to do one thing with his lineup that is simply mind boggling. Start Robbie Grossman in right field.
Last season Grossman was a valuable cog to the Twins offense. His .361 OBP made it worth including him in the lineup regularly. This season in 23 games, Grossman hasn’t been able to provide much of anything offensively as he is slashing .185/.247/.308 and has 6 walks to 17 strikeouts.
On top of not doing much offensively, Grossman is an absolute drain defensively. It is a flashback to the days of watching Delmon Young awkwardly navigate left field. With the Twins pitching staff struggling, whenever they produce a ball that is close to producing an out it needs to result in an out. At least twice this week Grossman failed to turn an out into an out.
The first time this was noticeable this past week was in the first game of the Toronto Blue Jays series. Grossman didn’t necessarily make a bad play, but the 4th inning exposed his limited range. Lance Lynn, who was struggling, was pitching to Teoscar Hernandez. Hernandez hit a sharp line drive to right field that just went over Grossman’s glove for a double.
If that was any of the other three Twins outfielders on the roster currently (Eddie Rosario, Max Kepler, or Ryan LaMarre) that is likely a catch. Instead, runners are on second and third and two runs score before the inning is over.
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A second instance was Thursday night in the opening game of the White Sox series. On Jake Odorizzi‘s final pitch of the night, Matt Davidson hit a solid line drive to right field for a run scoring double. There is an outside chance that Kepler would have tracked the ball down for an out. Grossman took what appeared to be a bad route to the ball and was still close to catching up to the ball.
What happened next was more frustrating. Grossman couldn’t pick up the ball in time to get it back into the infield. That led to the tieing run scoring after Jose Abreu was able to easily go from first to home. Setting up Trayce Thompson in the bottom of the ninth to dish the Twins another loss in walk-off fashion.
Those are two examples of Grossman’s limited defensive abilities being exposed in big ways for the Twins. To be fair, Grossman is far from the only problem the Twins have right now. At the same time, it doesn’t make sense for Molitor to keep running him out there as a starter when his pitching staff needs all the defensive help it can get. Especially when Grossman isn’t giving the team much offensively to offset some of those defensive limits.
Until Byron Buxton returns, the Twins should be trotting out an outfield of Rosario-LaMarre-Kepler as often as possible. Besides just defense, LaMarre has in a small sample size been hitting this season as he is slashing .333/.407/.333. Ride it while it lasts and help your defense get outs. And please, please reserve Grossman for pinch-hit situations similar to what he was able to do in Baltimore to start the season.