FORT MYERS, FLA. – There was a Max Kepler sighting Friday, as the Twins right fielder lined out and flied out in two plate appearances in a 4-1 victory over the Red Sox.
Kepler battled shoulder and chest issues late last season and fell into the group of Twins players that manager Rocco Baldelli wanted to give extra preparation time to before they started playing in spring training games.
“Max has been ready to go for a little while,” Baldelli said. “He was happy, smiling to be out there on the field, hit a ball good, made some nice plays in the field and get him out of there.”
Next up, Marwin Gonzalez and Jorge Polanco.
Gonzalez had a minor procedure on his right knee during the offseason. That, combined with two appearances on the injured list, landed him in the safety zone.
Polanco avoided the injured list last season, but the All-Star shortstop played with various injuries from about June on.
“We should see them on the field in the next few days,” Baldelli said. “Before the end of the [next] week, they’ll both play. Hopefully we can get them out there more than once, each of them, by the end of the week.”
All the Twins do is hit home runs and turn triple plays. They set a record with 307 home runs last season and also turned two triple plays at Target Field.
Alex Kirilloff homered on Friday against the Red Sox. And the Twins were credited with a triple play in the eighth inning. Credited, not earned.
With runners on first and second and Charlie Barnes pitching for the Twins, Tate Matheny lined back to the mound for the first out. Barnes turned and threw to Junior Severino at second. Severino failed to touch second base as he threw to first baseman Tomas Telis, who caught the ball with Jeter Downs nowhere close to being back to the bag. That’s two outs.
Telis threw back to shortstop Wander Javier, who was near second. Javier tagged Downs, who was already out. Marcus Wilson, the runner at second base at the start of the play, was never retired but was also called out.
Triple play, the record will show.
Nick Gordon continues to take medication for a gastrointestinal issue that has kept the Twins infield prospect out of games so far, but he hopes to get in game action soon.
“Just trying to get back to what I love and just keep grinding,” Gordon said.
It’s similar to something he dealt with during the second half of last season at Class AAA Rochester, which limited him to 70 games. The 24-year-old Gordon, the fifth overall pick in the 2014 draft, has yet to reach the majors.
“He’s been regaining strength and trying to gain some weight and start to feel better before he starts getting back to full baseball activities so I can’t tell you that he’s fully there yet,” Baldelli said. “We’re not pushing him to get him out on the field as fast as possible. It’s February. There’s no rush to really get him out there until he feels 100 percent and his body’s functioning right.”
Righthander Jose Berrios will make his second appearance of spring training when he faces the Pirates on Saturday in a rare night game at Hammond Stadium. The plan is for Berrios to pitch three innings or reach around 50 pitches. Lefthander Derek Holland will start for Pittsburgh.
La VELLE E. NEAL III