MINNEAPOLIS — Through six games of the season, Minnesota’s outfielders have had a hard time staying healthy.
Left fielder Josh Willingham was hit in the hand by a pitch on Sunday against Cleveland and left the game. Meanwhile, right fielder Oswaldo Arcia has been dealing with a wrist injury that sidelined him for the last two days. With few options, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire had to put utility infielder Jason Bartlett in left field Sunday. But Bartlett’s day was cut short after he suffered an ankle injury.
That left Gardenhire to play Chris Colabello in right field for Monday’s home opener against Cleveland. Colabello did play 11 games in right field for Minnesota last season, but he’s primarily a first baseman and designated hitter.
The Twins announced before Monday’s game that Bartlett was placed on the 15-day disabled list. To take his place — and to add some depth in the outfield — Chris Herrmann was called up from Triple-A Rochester.
"I just didn’t know that there was going to be three guys at once," Gardenhire said of his injured players. "We definitely don’t want to play short. Obviously today, we’re going to have to get through today and then hopefully by Wednesday we’ll know more on the other two."
Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony said Monday the club is hopeful that both Arcia and Willingham can avoid trips to the disabled list.
Herrmann was not in the lineup Monday but will likely see more time in the outfield than he will at his primary position of catcher. Herrmann played 24 games in the outfield last season for Minnesota, including 21 times in right field. He also played two innings at first base Sunday for Rochester before he was called up.
"I’ve heard it from everybody that it’s good that I can play more than one position," Herrmann said Monday. "I feel the same, too. I think it’s good for me to be valuable defensively. If I’m not starting, I can always come in and they can depend on me to go out and do the job in the outfield or catching or whatever. I think that’s very important for me."
Colabello, who earned co-American League Player of the Week honors on Monday after driving in an AL-best 11 runs in six games, has played in all seven games this season. The Twins’ home opener was his first time this year in the outfield.
"I’ve played right field enough," Colabello said. "Just go out there and try to catch the ball and not try to be Superman. Thank God I’ve got (Aaron Hicks) to my right. Just tell him to catch everything."
Mauer adjusting to first base: It’s a small sample size, but former catcher Joe Mauer is already reaping the benefits of his new role as a first baseman. For starters, he’s feeling healthier than he has in years past when the rigors of catching took their toll on his body.
"My knees feel a lot better," said Mauer, who spent his first 10 years as a catcher before changing this offseason.
Playing first base wasn’t entirely new for Mauer, who did spend 56 games there over the past three seasons as a backup to Justin Morneau. A foul tip that resulted in a season-ending concussion last August forced Mauer to switch positions. Now, Minnesota is using a combination of Kurt Suzuki and Josmil Pinto at catcher with Mauer at first.
While there’s plenty that Mauer misses about being behind the plate, those foul tips are not on that list.
"It’s funny, I always joke around Kurt and Pinto, I tell them, ‘I feel your pain. I’ve been there before,’" Mauer said. "I’m probably noticing it a lot more than most people. I definitely don’t miss getting beat up back there."
Through six games, Mauer has played first base five times and was the designated hitter once. After going 0-for-10 through two games, he’s now batting .280 (7-for-25) entering Monday’s home opener.
The hope has always been that Mauer’s offensive numbers will increase with the move now that he’ll likely stay healthier — and play in more games.
"I think it’ll just get me out there more," Mauer said. "It’s kind of the unknown. I’m feeling pretty good right now. I’ve never went through a full season just playing first base. I guess time will tell."
Twins Stand Up 2 Cancer: During batting practice on Monday, Twins players wore hats reading "SU2C." Stand Up 2 Cancer is an organization that partners with Major League Baseball to help raise money for cancer research and awareness. The Twins had a good reason for doing so, as general manager Terry Ryan is currently undergoing radiation treatment to battle cancer that was discovered in his neck this winter.
Ryan was only in Fort Myers, Fla., for two days this spring as he was undergoing treatment at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. But Ryan was at Target Field for Monday’s home opener and shook the hand of every person who approached him before the game.
"It’s good to have him here," said assistant GM Rob Antony.
The Twins also handed out signs to every fan that read "I stand up for ___" with a spot to fill in the name of a friend, family member or loved one who has been affected by cancer. Fans were encouraged to stand up during the second inning while holding their signs. Additionally, the hats the Twins wore during batting practice will be auctioned off after Monday’s game, with the proceeds going to Stand Up 2 Cancer.