After struggling at the plate in his first seven games as a major leaguer, Aaron Hicks finally got a day off Tuesday in the Twins’ 7-4 loss to Kansas City.
The 23-year-old Hicks, who is making his big-league debut this year, was just 2-for-30 with two walks and 13 strikeouts prior to Tuesday’s game in Kansas City. That prompted manager Ron Gardenhire to give Hicks a day off, starting Darin Mastroianni in his place.
Mastroianni made his first start of the season after dealing with a sore ankle suffered late in spring training. He had previously been used in five games as a pinch runner and defensive replacement but had yet to get an at-bat.
“I’m ready to play the way I want to play out there, which is fast and running all over the place,” Mastroianni told MLB.com. “(The ankle) will be sore after the game and between innings, but it won’t affect me on the basepaths or in the outfield.”
The 27-year-old Mastroianni led off Tuesday and finished 1-for-4 at the plate. He also reached base on an error by Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas with nobody out in the fifth inning but did not score and drew a two-out walk in the top of the ninth inning.
Last season, Mastroianni appeared in 77 games with Minnesota after playing in a total of one big-league game prior to 2012. Used mostly as a fourth outfielder and pinch runner in 2012, Mastroianni batted .252 with 17 RBI and 21 stolen bases.
Twins launch three solo homers in loss: Three of Minnesota’s four runs Tuesday came via the long ball as three different players homered. It began with catcher Joe Mauer, who launched his first of the season in the first inning to put the Twins up 1-0. Left fielder Josh Willingham hit his second of the year, a solo shot in the third.
The final home run came off the bat of Eduardo Escobar, who hit his first career homer in the top of the fifth inning when he took Jeremy Guthrie deep to left-center field. Escobar finished the game 3-for-4 and drove in two of Minnesota’s four runs.
It was the first time since Aug. 6 of last season that the Twins hit three or more homers in a game. They launched four that game, a 14-3 win against Cleveland. Minnesota hit three or more home runs eight times in 2012. It also marked the second multi-homer game of the year for the Twins. Trevor Plouffe and Josh Willingham each homered in the series finale against Detroit on April 4.
Swarzak solid in relief: Starter Mike Pelfrey’s night lasted just two innings, so the Twins had to turn to the bullpen early in Tuesday’s loss after Pelfrey allowed five runs. Right-hander Anthony Swarzak, who has started at times during his career, wound up pitching four innings out of the bullpen and allowed just one run on three hits with two strikeouts. He needed fewer pitches (59) to get through four innings than Pelfrey did in two innings (62). Swarzak retired the last nine batters he faced before giving way to Ryan Pressly in the seventh inning.
Swarzak began the year on the disabled list after fracturing his ribs in an off-the-field incident this winter. He made his season debut on Sunday in Baltimore and earned the win by pitching 1 1/3 scoreless innings of relief in the Twins’ 4-3 victory.
“Swarzy was great,” Gardenhire said after Tuesday’s loss. “That’s what he’s done for us. He did that last year. Coming back off the injury, he’s worked really hard to get back up here. He ate up some valuable innings.”
FOX Sports North’s Jamie Hersch contributed to this report.