HOUSTON – Twins shortstop Jorge Polanco was asked which aspect of his game is he the most concerned about, his fielding or hitting.
“The bat,” Polanco replied. “I’ve definitely been struggling with the bat.”
Yet he has had trouble with both recently.
At the plate, he’s batting .123 over his past 18 games. That has dragged his season average down to .222. Polanco entered the season a career .286 hitter in the minors and .284 in the majors.
He is not taking quality at-bats, and it looks like he’s trying to lift everything. He has struck out 17 times in his past 18 games after striking out 26 times over his previous 54.
“He is having a tough time,” manager Paul Molitor said. “The things that I think are his strengths are not showing up right now. Strike zone discipline. More consistent contact [from] both sides of the plate. He’s trying really hard to get hits. I think it’s an uncomfortable position for him to be, not where he wants to be in terms of average.
“He’s not letting the game come particularly well right now.”
Polanco committed an error Friday, his sixth in 18 games after committing only four in his first 53. He did make a nice play Saturday when he went into short center field after a grounder and threw to second for a nifty force play. Polanco’s defensive ranking is 17th among shortstops, according to FanGraphs.
It looks like he is taking his offensive struggles out to the field, but Molitor disagreed.
“I think, for the most part, he’s done a pretty good job of separating and going out there and playing each day,” Molitor said. “Trying to find a way to get back on track.”
Polanco was not in the starting lineup in Sunday’s 5-3 loss to the Astros. Ehire Adrianza started at short and was 2-for-3, including his first home run with the Twins. While Polanco is expected back in the lineup Monday against the Yankees, the coaching staff is concerned about his lack of quality at-bats.
“We’re monitoring him,” Molitor said. “Planting a lot of positive seeds with him.”
Also, no Mauer
The first bus from the team hotel to Minute Maid Park was at 8:30 a.m. Sunday, and Joe Mauer was on it.
Mauer told Molitor that he could play, but the manager decided against it. After missing 10 days because of a lower back issue, it didn’t make sense to Molitor to play Mauer in a day game following a night game.
“I just decided that I was going to back him off,” Molitor said. “He’s available off the bench.”
• Righthander Justin Haley, on the rehab trail following right biceps tendinitis, has a 2.08 ERA at Rochester in four games, including three starts. Molitor wouldn’t mind having a long reliever in the bullpen, and Haley could serve in that role once he’s activated from the DL. Molitor is not sure Phil Hughes could be an innings-eater. Hughes’ problem as a starter is that he lost feeling in his hand the more he pitched. So the Twins are sticking with one to two innings an outing for him.
• The Twins will determine a plan for lefthander Hector Santiago to get stretched out once they return to the Twin Cities. Santiago is on the DL with upper thoracic back pain but is about ready to face some hitters.
• First base coach Jeff Smith will gladly give up No. 40 for Bartolo Colon to wear when he officially joins the Twins on Tuesday. Smith will switch to No. 37.
• Brian Dozier led off the first two games of the series with a home run. He had a chance to make it three straight Sunday but struck out. If he had connected, he would have been the first player since Brady Anderson in 1996 to hit leadoff homers in three straight games. Anderson led off with homers in four straight games that season.