Kendrys Morales waited just one day after he was signed by the Twins before jumping into Minnesota’s lineup. Two days after his debut, Morales provided one of the biggest hits in the Twins’ 7-2 victory Wednesday over the Toronto Blue Jays.
In his first three games with Minnesota, Morales has six hits and three RBI. Three of those hits — including a pair of doubles â and all of the RBI came in Wednesday’s series finale. For someone who, before Monday, hadn’t played in a big-league game since Sept. 29 of last season, Morales looks like he hasn’t missed a beat.
"I guess he can just get out of bed and hit. That’s what it looks like to me," said Twins left fielder Josh Willingham, who hit a two-run homer in Wednesday’s win.
Morales and the Twins weren’t sure when he’d be able to get into the lineup when the deal was announced Sunday. It was expected that Morales would need at least several days to get acclimated and get up to speed before he would be ready to play.
Minnesota didn’t have the luxury of sending Morales to Triple-A Rochester to get some at-bats and find his swing because he was out of minor-league options. So the Twins put Morales on the 25-man roster right away and designated Jason Kubel for assignment to make room. Since he was on the active roster and taking up a spot, it didn’t make a ton of sense for Morales to sit on the bench for long.
After watching Sunday’s series finale at Target Field against Houston, Morales was in the Twins’ lineup Monday at Toronto. Two days later, Morales drove in three of Minnesota’s seven runs and had his first three-hit day in a Twins uniform.
"It’s pretty amazing. He’s just going up there and whacking it," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. "He has great at-bats. It doesn’t look like he hasn’t played in a long time, I can guarantee you that. A good hitter, good RBI guy. We knew that when we got him."
Morales flew out to end the first inning in his first at-bat Wednesday, but his bat heated up after that. He later singled to lead off the top of the fourth inning but was stranded on third base after Eduardo Nunez fouled out to the catcher to end the Twins’ threat.
In the top of the sixth, Morales cracked a double to center field for his first extra-base hit of the day. Two batters later, he came around to score on a sacrifice fly by Trevor Plouffe to put Minnesota up 3-0.
Morales’ biggest hit in his brief tenure with the Twins took place in the seventh inning. With the bases loaded and one out, Morales hit his second double in as many innings and cleared the bases. Danny Santana, Eduardo Escobar and Joe Mauer all came around to score on Morales’ big hit to push Minnesota’s lead to 6-0.
In 156 games with Seattle last year, Morales drove in 80 runs and hit 23 homers. He’s had 70 or more RBI in three of his last four seasons, with an injury-shortened 2010 as the exception. Just three games in with Minnesota, the Twins are now reaping the benefit of Morales’ ability to drive in runs.
"What a spark he’s been," Willingham said. "Playing against him, you realize how good a hitter he is. But taking that much time off and being able to come in and help us right away has been big."
Twins option Pinto: The addition of Morales to the Twins’ lineup meant at-bats were likely going to be hard to come by for Josmil Pinto, the backup catcher and designated hitter. As a result, Minnesota optioned Pinto to Triple-A Rochester following Wednesday’s game.
Pinto, 25, was batting .222 with seven homers and 16 RBI in 43 games. But with veteran Kurt Suzuki doing the majority of the catching for Minnesota, at-bats had been hard to come by lately for Pinto. The addition of Morales only emphasized that point, so Pinto will now have the chance to get at-bats every day with Rochester.
The Twins did not make a corresponding roster move to call up a backup catcher but will announce one after Thursday’s off day and before Friday’s game in Detroit. Red Wings catcher Eric Fryer or catcher/outfielder Chris Herrmann are the two likeliest options.