TORONTO — With Kendrys Morales set to be the everyday designated hitter for the Twins moving forward, the club is deciding what to do with rookie catcher Josmil Pinto.
Pinto started 19 games at designated hitter as a way to get his bat into the lineup with Kurt Suzuki serving as the primary catcher this season. Suzuki made his 46th start behind the plate on Wednesday with right-hander Phil Hughes on the mound, while Pinto has made just 18 starts at catcher this year.
“With Hughes going, I really wanted Suzuki to catch Hughes,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Pinto has been scuffling along with his throwing and all those things. We’re trying to do some work with him to get him straightened out a little bit. We talked to Suzuki about this and told him he might have to catch three this series until we get the kid straightened out.”
Pinto has had trouble defensively this year, as he’s yet to throw out an opposing base stealer in 16 attempts and also has made five errors. He’s also still working on his pitch calling and framing skills.
So the Twins could look to option him to Triple-A Rochester to get more consistent playing time and work on his defense. Triple-A catchers Eric Fryer and Chris Herrmann are both on the 40-man roster, and one of the two could be called up to replace Pinto.
Pinto, 25, also started off hot offensively but has cooled down since May 1. Some of his scuffles could come from a lack of consistent playing time but is hitting just .200/.227/.329 with two homers and seven RBIs in 23 games since May 1.
Gardenhire said a decision hasn’t been made on Pinto yet. But reading between the lines, it’s becoming more likely he’ll go down to Triple-A to continue his development.
“It’s all the things we’re talking about,” Gardenhire said. “We’re trying to figure out our route here. We’re trying to see how we can work him in and keep him developing, too. We’re working on it. The whole process.”
TORONTO — Right-hander Mike Pelfrey underwent surgery on Tuesday to clean up scar tissue in his right elbow that was causing pressure on his ulnar nerve, the Twins announced. The official term for the operation is right elbow ulnar nerve decompression surgery.
Pelfrey met with Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion on his elbow in Pensacola, Fla., on Monday, and Dr. Andrews performed the surgery on Tuesday. He’s expected to be out two to four months.
Pelfrey had Tommy John surgery on his right elbow on May 1, 2012, which caused him to miss the rest of that season and led to the scar tissue buildup in his elbow that necessitated Tuesday’s operation. But his ulnar collateral ligament is fine, as the injury was related to the ulnar nerve.
Pelfrey began to feel numbness in his fingers during Spring Training but never notified the training staff, as it was something he’d dealt with earlier in his career without any issues.
He went on to post a 7.99 ERA in five starts with diminished velocity before going on the 15-day disabled list with a groin strain on May 2. He made two rehab starts with Triple-A Rochester before he began to feel what he thought was shoulder pain but turned out to be related to the ulnar nerve in his elbow after he had both his shoulder and elbow checked out by Twins doctors in late May.
Pelfrey, 30, posted a 5.19 ERA in 29 starts in his return from Tommy John surgery last year, and the Twins were hopeful he’d bounce back this season after being another year removed from the surgery. He signed a two-year, $11 million deal in the offseason to remain in Minnesota.
TORONTO — In a surprise move, Kendrys Morales made his Twins debut on Monday, batting sixth and starting at designated hitter against the Blue Jays.
Morales, who officially joined the Twins on Sunday after signing a one-year, $12 million prorated contract, was expected to need roughly a week to get ready before playing in his first game.
Morales hasn’t played since last September, but called bullpen coach Bobby Cuellar on Sunday night and asked him to tell Twins manager Ron Gardenhire he was ready to play on Monday.
“He said he’s been sitting for four months and he thought about it and watched the game last night so he wants to play,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “I got no problem with that. I just told me he has to tell me how he’s feeling out there.”
Gardenhire said it’ll be up to Morales to determine how much he’ll play in his first week with the club, as he’s still trying to knock off some rust. His first start came against knuckleballer R.A. Dickey but Gardenhire said that didn’t factor into the decision for Morales to start on Monday.
“I don’t know if it’s easier to come back and hit against a knuckleballer or against a guy throwing 95 [mph],” Gardenhire said. “I’ve never seen this before with a guy sitting out this long. But he’s been swinging out there so it’s not like he’s swinging cold turkey or coming out of a hospital bed.”
Morales, who turns 31 on June 20, worked out six days a week at agent Scott Boras’ training facility in Miami to stay sharp. He faced live pitching there, including facing free-agent right-hander Joel Pineiro, according to Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony. Antony was also on board with the decision to put Morales right into the lineup.
“To me, the only way to knock off the rust is to play,” Antony said. “Maybe he struggles or doesn’t give us much for a week but then he takes off and does fine. You can wait a week and let him take BP but there’s nothing really to simulate a real game. So I think it’s great he wants to play.”
MINNEAPOLIS — The Twins reached an agreement with free-agent slugger Kendrys Morales on Saturday, according to a Major League source familiar with the negotiations. The deal is a one-year, $12 million prorated contract worth roughly $7.6 million.
The Twins, however, have not confirmed the deal and an official announcement hasn’t been made. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports was the first to report it.
Morales, 30, was a free agent over the offseason but did not sign with a team after declining a qualifying offer from the Mariners. If another team signed him, they would’ve lost a pick in the First-Year Player Draft but with the Draft already underway, the Twins won’t lose a pick for signing Morales.
The signing comes as a surprise, as the Twins were never heavily linked to the Cuban-born slugger. But they wanted to add power bat to their offense, and Morales certainly brings that.
The switch-hitter batted .277/.336/.449 with 23 homers, 34 doubles and 80 RBIs with the Mariners last year. He played just 31 games at first base while serving as designated hitter in 121 games. The Twins have Joe Mauer at first base so Morales is again expected to see a bulk of his time at DH.
Morales, who also played with the Angels from 2006-2012, is a career .280/.333/.480 hitter with 102 homers, 130 doubles and 165 RBIs in 620 games.
MINNEAPOLIS — The Twins went with a position player with the No. 5 overall pick in Thursday’s First-Year Player Draft, selecting highly athletic shortstop Nick Gordon from Olympia High School in Orlando.
Gordon, the son of former All-Star closer Tom Gordon and the brother of Dodgers second baseman Dee Gordon, had been linked to Minnesota leading up to the Draft, and the Twins got their man with the fifth overall selection. The Twins have $3.85 million available for their first pick.
The Draft continues on Friday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com pregame show begins at 12:30p ET, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 3-10 beginning at 1p ET.
Gordon, ranked as the No. 5 overall Draft prospect by MLB.com, is the consensus top infielder in the Draft, and is expected to remain at shortstop where’s he’s regarded as a plus defender.
Gordon’s speed, arm and defense all rate as plus tools, and also boasts above-average bat speed and strong wrists at the plate, giving him surprising power from his 6-foot-2, 170-pound frame. The 18-year-old added 15 pounds of muscle over the last year, and will need to continue to add strength as he advances through the Minor Leagues.
Gordon, who hits from the left side but throws right-handed, is also regarded as a top prospect as a pitcher with a fastball in the low-90s and a good curveball. But much like MLB.com’s No. 1 overall prospect Byron Buxton, who was also a dominant high school pitcher, the Twins are inclined to keep Gordon as a position player.
Gordon, who is committed to play baseball at Florida State, hit .494 with a .576 on-base percentage in 27 games his senior year at Olympia High School en route to being named Gatorade Florida Baseball Player of the year for a second straight season. He hit five homers, 10 doubles and two triples with 27 RBIs and 28 runs scored. He also stole 13 bases.
Gordon was also named Gatorade Florida Baseball Player of the Year his junior year after hitting .505 with two homers and 30 RBIs, while also going 5-1 with five saves, a 0.78 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 35 2/3 innings pitched.
NEW YORK — Right-hander Mike Pelfrey had his throwing shoulder and elbow examined in Minnesota on Friday, and irritation was found in his ulnar nerve in his elbow but both his elbow and shoulder were structurally sound.
Pelfrey, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right groin, complained of shoulder soreness after his most recent rehab start with Triple-A Rochester. So he flew to the Twin Cities to get both his shoulder and elbow examined to determine the problem.
The shoulder was fine but an MRI exam on his elbow found some nerve irritation and scar tissue in his elbow. Pelfrey will take anti-inflammatories for now but is expected to see Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion. Dr. Andrews performed Pelfrey’s Tommy John surgery on his elbow in May of 2012.
“They looked at his shoulder and it looked great so they looked at this elbow and there was a little bit of irritation in the ulnar nerve, which was transposed when he had the surgery,” Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony said. “They said that’s not abnormal or a major thing. They’re hoping to treat it with anti-inflammatories.”
Pelfrey had seen his velocity decrease this season, and the Twins are hopeful they’ve now found the root of his problem. He’d also been dealing with some tingling in his fingers, which is something he felt before the Tommy John surgery and is believed to be related to the nerve issue in his elbow.
“Hopefully we’re getting to the bottom of it with him,” Antony said. “We’re going to try to treat it with anti-inflammatories and if he needs surgery, it’ll be very minor and just clean up some scar tissue.”
MINNEAPOLIS — Twins manager Ron Gardenhire had plenty to say about Joe Mauer while speaking to the media before Thursday’s game against the Rangers.
Mauer is off to an uncharacteristically slow start, and was the subject of boos on Wednesday, when he failed to come through with a runner at third base with two outs in the seventh in Minnesota’s eventual 1-0 loss.
Here’s what Gardenhire had to say about Mauer, who entered Thursday hitting .277/.356/.356 with two homers and six doubles in 45 games this season:
He’s hitting a lot of balls hard. The way they’re playing him and pitching him If he were in Boston, he’d be hitting .400. I mean, how many rockets he’s hit out to left field, deep. He’d be pounding that wall. But he’s not in Boston, and they’re playing him oppo. He’s ripping balls that way, and you just go through it. I don’t know if you start counting all the balls that this guy hits on the button. I can promise you it’s as many as anybody in the league. He hits it on the barrel of the bat.
(On the expectations he faces)
The expectations are very high for him. People get frustrated. I just don’t want Joe to get frustrated. I know he is a little bit right now, because he doesn’t have the results that he wants. But I don’t want to put any more pressure on the guy. He goes out and plays, and he gets after it pretty good and he works hard. He’s got a great swing. No one wants to win more than that guy. I’m not going to bench him. I’m going to just leave him in there.
(Does he look more frustrated?)
He’s always shown that side of him (frustration), where he goes into a game and hits some balls right at people, or has a bad at-bat against a guy – which, believe it or not, he does every once in a while – a guy throws some pitches that are pretty good. But he’s always done that (get frustrated). You just don’t see it. In the dugout, a lot of things happen that you guys don’t see. Yeah, he can get pretty tense. Believe me, he can.
(Is he being more selective?)
He’s actually jumped on some more first pitches, trying to ambush people a little bit. Trying different things. He wants to do well. He wants to win. He wants to do all those things and help the team, and he’s trying to figure out different ways to do it. Look to jerk a ball early in the count, all those things. He’s been doing that. More this year than he has in the past. But he’s still not afraid to take pitches, and he’s one of the best hitters in the game as far as I’m concerned with two strikes. It’s incredible how much solid contact the guy makes with two strikes. He can do those things that other people can’t.
I know he’s a little flustered. Last night was disappointing, we lose one-nothing. He had chances, along with a few other guys. You know what? He takes a lot of pride with that stuff.
(Does he need to change his approach to stop hitting where they’re playing him in left?)
I don’t think you can guide ‘em. All you can do is put a good swing on ‘em and barrel it. That’s what he has to continue doing, just barrel the baseball. You start trying to guide it and do this and that, you start getting into trouble doing something you’re not used to. He’s made adjustments.
But right now, I don’t know how many times he’s lined out to left field. He’s hit balls right down the left field line on the line and you’ve got an outfielder standing there. That’s the way they’re playing it, and those used to be hits, so… you know, with all the videos, all the systems, these charts that people throw out there, people are playing him a little bit differently. For him to say, ‘Well, I’m gonna quit hitting it there,’ I don’t know about that. I’d keep hitting it on the screws and take my chances. And that’s what he does. He hits it hard.
The kid can hit. And you know what? I think it’s an eye-opener when we say, ‘Joe Mauer is struggling a little bit.’ It’s an eye-opener for everybody because you’re just not used to seeing that or hearing that. It’s really hard to fathom for him because he’s such a good hitter.
(On the boos in seventh inning)
It’s part of the game for everybody. I know it’s not been a big part for Joe around here, but it’s part of the game. Fans are frustrated. They show it. It’s always been part of the game. I think for Joe, he hears it, believe me. We all hear it. You know what? People have the right to do whatever they want to do when they come in this ballpark. I just hope that he doesn’t put more pressure on himself. I want him to just keep swinging, and he’ll be fine.
Everybody has a right to go out there and make their statements. You can’t control that stuff. Let me tell you what: If he played in cities like where I played [New York], it’s tougher than it is here. We’ve got pretty good fans. They get fired up a little bit, and you guys read it, and you hear it from all your side of it. But it’s still pretty mild compared to most places.
MINNEAPOLIS — Top prospect Byron Buxton had an MRI exam on his left wrist in the Twin Cities on Tuesday, and the exam showed he aggravated his original wrist injury from Spring Training.
Buxton, ranked as the No. 1 overall prospect by MLB.com, originally sprained the pisotriquetral joint in his wrist while diving for a fly ball in center field during a Minor League Spring Training game on March 16.
He reinjured it on Thursday while sliding into a base in his fifth game of the year at Class A Advanced Fort Myers. He was placed on the 7-day Minor League disabled list on Sunday as a result.
Buxton flew to Minnesota to have his wrist examined by team doctors and hand specialist Dr. Thomas Varecka on Tuesday, and will head back to Fort Myers, Fla. to work out at extended Spring Training but the Twins don’t have a timetable for his return to game action yet.
“It was an aggravation of his injury, but it’s not any worse, just aggravated,” Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony said. “He’ll head back down to Fort Myers and work out at extended until it feels better basically.”
Buxton returned to action in extended Spring Training on April 26 before being activated from the Minor League disabled list at Class A Advanced Fort Myers on May 4. He hit .150 (3-for-20) with a double, a homer and two RBIs in five games before suffering the injury on Thursday.
The Twins are hopeful the injury won’t keep him out as long as last time but it’s still too early to tell, according to Antony.
“We hope not, and [the doctors] don’t think so, but you never know,” Antony said. “We can’t rule anything out. They don’t believe so but whenever you have a situation like this with hands or wrists, it just depends on the individual.”
DETROIT — Top prospect Byron Buxton is scheduled to undergo an MRI exam on his left wrist in the next few days after reinjuring it on a slide on Thursday, according to Twins director of Minor League operations Brad Steil.
Buxton, ranked as the No. 1 overall prospect by MLB.com, originally injured his wrist while diving for a fly ball in center field during a Minor League Spring Training game on March 16. He was diagnosed with a sprained pisotriquetral joint as a result and was shut down for several weeks.
He returned to action in extended Spring Training on April 26 before being activated from the Minor League disabled list at Class A Advanced Fort Myers on May 4. He hit .150 (3-for-20) with a double, a homer and two RBIs in five games before suffering the injury on Thursday. He was held out of the lineup on Friday and Saturday as a result, and the Miracle are off on Sunday.
The Twins remain hopeful the injury is just minor, as the MRI exam will be compared with the one he had in Spring Training after he initially injured his wrist.
Buxton was scheduled to play at Class A Advanced Fort Myers until he was deemed ready to move up to Double-A New Britain where he was expected to start the season before the injury.
Buxton, 20, hit a combined .334/.424/.520 with 12 homers, 18 triples, 19 doubles, 55 stolen bases, 77 RBIs and 109 runs in 125 games with Class A Cedar Rapids and Fort Myers last season.
DETROIT — After missing five games with lower back spasms, Joe Mauer returned to the lineup on Saturday against the Tigers, starting at designated hitter and batting third.
Mauer was able to hit in the cages without any issues before the game, and told Twins manager Ron Gardenhire he was also able to run the bases. So Gardenhire called it an easy decision to put Mauer in the lineup for the first time since Sunday.
“He came in and got to the park early and did some stuff and said he wanted to play,” Gardenhire said. “The trainers said the same thing. He feels good and can run all the bases and all those things.”
Gardenhire added he was relieved Mauer was able to avoid the 15-day disabled list, as it would’ve kept him out of action until May 20 against the Padres.
“With backs, it’s something you don’t want to deal with too much,” Gardenhire said. “When you start feeling better you always want to give it a few extra days. I’ve had it and we’ve all had it, and it’s just not very fun. So I’m just happy to see him in here wanting to play.”