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Notes from KC: Extra-innings win, Berrios’ start, Tony Diaz on coaching third

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — After a nice comeback win Friday, the Twins looked to make it two in a row against Kansas City Saturday, with Jose Berrios on the hill.

Miguel Sano started the scoring for the Twins with a 454-foot home run into the center field fountain. Berrios allowed just four hits and no runs through the first seven innings of action. But the real fireworks came in the 8th inning.

After the Twins scored a pair of runs on solo home runs from Jake Cave and C.J. Cron, the Royals came storming back. Berrios began the frame, but a single, wild pitch and walk had manager Rocco Baldelli call down to his bullpen to get the fireman, Taylor Rogers.

Rogers gave up a run-scoring double to Alex Gordon, and let two more runs score — to tie things up at 3-3 — on Hunter Dozier’s single to the outfield.

Cron answered in the 10th inning, with another run-scoring hit, and Eddie Rosario sent another line drive to the outfield, ending in a run-scoring double to put the Twins up 5-3. Blake Parker closed out the drama in the bottom of the 10th to earn his 10th save.

 Injury updates

Jonathan Schoop was a late scratch from the lineup with right ankle soreness. It’s unclear whether he’ll need an IL stint, but it’s likely a good sign that he was in the original lineup. Still, the Twins are suffering a rash of injuries, after staying remarkably healthy through the season’s first two months. The good news is nothing appears major.

Mitch Garver was out of the lineup again Saturday, but he did pinch-hit Friday, before being lifted for a pinch runner. That’s probably an indication he’ll be back in the lineup soon. With an off day Monday, Tuesday might make sense for Garver to get back behind the plate.

Manager Rocco Baldelli wouldn’t give a definitive timetable on Byron Buxton’s return, or whether he’ll need a rehab assignment, but it does sound like he’s close to returning when his IL stint is up at the end of the Royals series. Buxton is in Kansas City and going through workouts.

“I can’t say for sure at this point,” Baldelli said about a possible rehab stint for Buxton. “We probably want to discuss it before I have a real good feeling. I would want to talk to Buck first about how he’s feeling and how he’s doing. If he’s feeling great and he’s missed 10 or 11 days or something like that, I don’t think it’s something that he definitely needs, but something that he might need.”

Marwin Gonzalez’s injury also doesn’t seem significant. As with Buxton, there’s nothing definitive, but based on what Baldelli said, it sounds like it’s likely closer to a 10-day stint on the IL rather than an extended stay.

“Marwin’s doing well, he’s showing pretty good improvement over the first few days with his hamstring,” said Baldelli. “This isn’t an overly serious muscle strain. I don’t have a great update, I just get medical reports, but they’ve all been very positive. I think he’s in a pattern where he’s improving, doing work in the training room. But as far as baseball activities, I don’t have any baseball activities reports yet.”

Tony Diaz on coaching third

Tony Diaz is in his first year coaching third base with the Twins, after coaching first with Colorado last season. Being a third base coach—at least the portion of it that requires making split-second decisions on whether to send or hold base runners—is a difficult job, and one that can have a significant impact on the game. I talked to Diaz about the preparation that goes into making an informed decision in the moment.

“Instincts help, but you have to have the information, the variables,” he said. “I like to watch video on how the outfielders are doing lately, and combining that with the grades of the scouts. That gives a good indication of how accurate they are, how quick they get rid of the ball. There’s a lot of factors that go into it. The speed of the runner, the scoreboard. How hard the ball’s hit. Who’s on deck. is he hot, is he cold? Those are things you have to factor in, and then sometimes, you got all that but the runner doesn’t get a good jump. But at the end of the day, sometimes you push the envelope a little more than others. You have to trust your preparation and trust what you see.”

The job of a third base coach is unique in that they generally only get talked about when they make a bad decision. A ‘good send’ is rarely discussed with the same level of intensity as when a runner gets thrown out at the plate.

“It’s a thankless job,” said Diaz. “I think coaching third and being an umpire, it’s only when you mess up that people talk about you. From the stands and up above, it seems a lot slower than real time. People go ‘Why? Why’d he do that?’ Not all decisions are clear cut.”

In Tuesday’s marathon game, there was an interesting play just before Max Kepler’s walk-off hit. With Luis Arraez at first and one out, Eddie Rosario hit a double to the right field corner. Rosario was giving the “wave him in” sign with his arm as he rounded second, and seemed upset when Diaz held Arraez at third. Ultimately, the move paid off. After C.J. Cron was intentionally walked, Kepler delivered the walk-off hit.

“Eddie’s a very emotional player,” Diaz said. “That’s part of what makes him good. With who was coming up, Cron and Kepler, you put things on the scale and say Kepler’s been really hot. I thought it would have been maybe 50/50, more 40/60. With two outs I’m going to send Arraez to the plate. With one out, it was the right call. Hindsight’s 20/20.”

Minor Updates

Brent Rooker has been crushing the ball in Rochester. After a slow start and stint on the IL, Rooker’s returned with a vengeance. Since coming back on June 1, he’s slashing .409/.556/.742 (1.29 OPS) with 12 extra base hits. Rooker is a bat first corner outfielder who likely has to mash his way to the big leagues. With Eddie Rosario and Max Kepler entrenched in the corner outfield, it’s probably going to take an injury or trade for Rooker to get his shot this season. If he does, though, he’d fit right in with the best offense in baseball.

Nick Gordon, too, has been playing well. After two separate stints on the IL, he’s healthy now and slashing .294/.336/.456. It seemed inevitable Gordon would eventually figure things out at Triple-A, because he’s conquered every level thus far and is still one of the youngest players on the Rochester roster. If not for the emergence of Arraez, who’s been phenomenal in the minors and majors this year, Gordon may have made his MLB debut by now. As it stands, he’ll have to wait a bit longer. It also wouldn’t be shocking to see him as part of a trade package in July, if the Twins view Arraez as the better option to be the starting second baseman next season, assuming Schoop leaves in free agency.

Another name to keep an eye on is Jhoan Duran. Duran is still at High-A Fort Myers, so he’s unlikely to help the Twins this season (though Andrew Vasquez started last season at High-A and finished it in the big leagues), but he could contribute in 2020. With a fastball that can touch 100, Duran has been lights out lately for the Miracle. In his last 4 starts, he’s struck out 37 batters in 25 innings while allowing just four earned runs. Duran was acquired in the Eduardo Escobar trade last July.


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