Wednesday, June 11, 2014

What next in center field?

Danny Santana,
center fielder by default
Aaron Hicks apparently injured a shoulder making a diving catch to end Saturday's game. He hasn't started the past three games (although he did pinch run in one of them), and there was chatter Tuesday that he may go on the disabled list as soon as today.

Hicks decided on May 26 that he would abandon switch-hitting and stick to the right side. He has since then gone 5-for-19 with four walks, a slash line of .263/.391/.316. Twenty-four plate appearances don't prove very much, but I'm not sure you can find another stretch of 24 plate appearances in his brief career in which he hit .263, much less reached base more than 39 percent of the time.

Still, between the injury and the significant switch in his game, there's reason to doubt that he should be on the major league roster. One big reason he remains on the roster: a lack of reasonable alternatives.

Enter, perhaps, San Fuld, currently serving a rehab assignment in New Britain as he prepares to return from his concussion. Should Hicks go on the DL, Fuld probably gets reactivated.

And Danny Santana doubtless gets a steady diet of center field time. Santana has produced so far, but his major league numbers far outstrip his minor league stats. He's not this good. But one cannot blame Ron Gardenhire for riding him while he hits.

The center field option that intrigues me most is probably at least few weeks away from getting a shot: Eddie Rosario. Rosario had a late start to the 2014 season because of his drug suspension. Once eligible, he spent a bit more than a week at High A Fort Myers shaking off the rust (.300/.382/.300 in eight games), then moved back to Double A, where he finished 2013. In his first three games there, he went 6-for-13 with a double and a homer.

Rosario was a center fielder when he started his minor league career. The Twins a couple of years ago started trying to convert him to a second baseman, and the reviews on that have been mixed. I assume he's a better defensive outfielder than defensive infielder; the rationale for trying to switch him was rooted in (a) the other center fielders in the organization and (b) a sense that he may not have the extra base thump to be a corner outfielder.

When somebody asked Gardenhire a few days ago about converting Santana's primary position from shortstop, Gardy said something along the lines of We all know what's coming there. Referring, of course, to Byron Buxton. But Buxton isn't an answer to the immediate question.

Right now, the Twins have four possible answers to the question: Who's our center fielder? To one degree or another, they've tried three of them. I fully expect that before long they'll try the fourth.

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