FORT MYERS, Fla. — This is the time of training camp when roster spots are won or lost. Some players thrive in these moments, making it hard for their superiors to cut them. Others realize that Opening Day is less than a week away and wilt under the bright Florida sunshine.
Trevor Larnach has thrived, positioning himself for a trip up north and a place in the Opening Day lineup.
The lefthanded-hitting outfielder is batting .385 with three home runs in nine games. He's pulling the ball with authority after being more of a center-to-left-center field hitter. Is his hold on a roster spot improved with injuries to Jorge Polanco and Alex Kirilloff? Absolutely. The best players don't always make a roster. The healthiest and the ones out of options do.
But that would paint Larnach as the benefactor of good fortune instead of someone who has earned his way. It's more of the latter than the former.
"You don't know until it's official," he said Wednesday from JetBlue Stadium after a game against Boston. "My goal is not to worry about whether or not I make it, whether guys are injured. My goal is to make it from me putting in the work and being successful out on the field.
"I've heard things, but we'll keep it at that."
One fascinating aspect of covering spring trainings for more than a quarter of a century is witnessing the maturation of young ballplayers. Royce Lewis' charisma was obvious the first time he met with reporters. Byron Buxton was beyond polite, answering questions with "yes sir,' or "yes ma'am" attached. Fernando Romero wore sunglasses inside the clubhouse the first time he spoke with reporters. Kennys Vargas cracked jokes and bellowed with laughter. Joe Ryan is the epitome of California cool. Joe Mauer was born with the nice guy gene.
Larnach, the Twins first-round pick in 2018 out of Oregon State, was thoughtful yet reserved as a young pro, but he now is more forthcoming when his bat isn't speaking for him. After going 4-for-4 and falling a triple shy of a cycle on Wednesday against Boston, he said he wants to force the Twins to take him to the majors.
"Definitely," said Larnach, 26. "I felt that way the last couple of spring trainings. I understand there's a progression with every guy. And experience comes into play, too."
Over his first 130 major league games, Larnach is batting .226 with 12 homers and 46 RBI. He was limited to 51 games last season because of an adductor strain and a core muscle injury. His development has been slowed, so he hasn't had much chance to show he's progressed in a couple of areas.
One, he had to handle inside pitches better. Two, he's worked on hitting breaking pitches, as teams stopped feeding him fastballs after he crushed a few.
Twins broadcaster Justin Morneau, speaking on Thursday while preparing to work the Twins-Blue Jays game at Hammond Stadium, approves of the way Larnach is attacking spring training.
"Looks comfortable," Morneau said. "Looks good. [Wednesday] was a good example. He hit a home run to right then follows it with two hits the other way. He looks more settled, like he belongs."
Larnach still shows power to the opposite field but can turn on pitches much better than he did when he first entered the organization.
"To be able to maintain a strength while working on your weaknesses is a hard thing to do," Morneau said. "He has worked hard on it. That's one of the first conversations I had with him, how much they pounded him in. He had to learn how to pull the ball."
With Polanco and Kirilloff not starting the season with the Twins due to injuries, and Buxton earmarked for designated-hitter duty during the first few weeks, at-bats are available in left field. Michael A. Taylor will play in center for Buxton and outfielder Joey Gallo will be needed at first base. Plenty of RBI opportunities are there too, as the Twins don't have a fixture in the middle of the lineup.
Larnach needs to take advantage of these opportunities.
"He's fought his way onto the team whether there was an injury or something else," Morneau said. "It was going to be hard not to take him."
This is his shot.