MINNEAPOLIS — Chris Colabello hopes he’s recaptured the magic that made him one of baseball’s best stories in April.
Three games into his second stint with the Twins this year, he’s on the right track.
Colabello has delivered several big hits in a limited time since he was recalled from Triple-A Rochester on July 2, the same day Minnesota put first baseman Joe Mauer on the disabled list with an oblique strain. Colabello’s recent performances included a two-run homer into the bullpens in left-center field in Sunday’s game against the Yankees, although Minnesota couldn’t overcome an early deficit and lost 9-7.
"Unfortunately it wasn’t enough to win," Colabello said of his sixth homer of the year. "That’s really the only thing that matters."
Colabello carried Minnesota’s offense through the first month of the season. The longtime minor leaguer hit .295 with three homers and 27 RBI in April, prompting the Twins marketing department to create a red cowbell with his name and number on it as a promotional giveaway. It was even a topic of conversation that Colabello was left off the All-Star ballot, which was created before the season even started.
Once the calendar turned to May, though, Colabello’s bat went cold. He hit .125 with just three RBI in 16 games in May before he was optioned to Rochester. After a slow start back in the minors, Colabello’s bat heated up once again as he earned a trip back to the majors.
He’s now made two starts in the three games, and hit a key double in his one pinch-hit appearance Saturday. That double in the 11th inning came just a few inches shy of what would have been a walkoff home run. Instead, Colabello reached second base and the Twins eventually went on to win 2-1 in 11 innings.
In his first game back from Rochester on Friday, Colabello homered in his first at-bat to continue the hot streak he was on at Triple A. He batted .324 with five homers and 15 RBI in his last 18 games prior to the call-up.
After Sunday’s game, Colabello insisted he didn’t tweak anything with his swing after his early-season struggles. For whatever reason, though, things seem to be clicking again.
"I just got back to being Chris Colabello," he said. "I dealt with some stuff in May, obviously. I just needed to get over it and try and be myself every day."
Colabello’s story became well-documented early in the season when he was one of baseball’s hottest hitters. He finally broke into the majors in 2013 after nine minor league seasons — including seven years playing independent ball in Worcester, Mass., in the CanAm League.
His big league opportunity finally came with the Twins, and he played in 55 games with Minnesota last season. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, Colabello made the Twins’ 25-man roster out of spring training. The tear he went on in April seemed to justify the move.
Major league pitchers started to figure Colabello out, though, as he struggled to adjust to their adjustments. More than a month at Triple A seemed to help Colabello iron out the wrinkles in his game.
"As he said when he walked in, he said, ‘I found my swing. I found my rhythm,’ said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. "He was barreling the ball down there an awful lot and it was going a long ways. You’ve seen him walk up a couple times here and do it."
Now the question is how often Colabello will be in Minnesota’s lineup. He’s sharing time at first base with Chris Parmelee and Kendrys Morales, but he may also see action in the outfield. Sunday, he was Minnesota’s designated hitter and he responded by going 2-for-3 with a two-run home run, a double and a walk.
One day after seeing his double off the right field wall come a few inches shy of winning the game, it was a relief for Colabello to see the ball go over the wall on Sunday. Unfortunately for he and the Twins, the impact of Sunday’s hit wasn’t the same as the one he had Saturday.
"It’s obviously good to put good swings on balls," Colabello said. "It would have been nicer if it was in a win or put us ahead."