Gardenhire ‘not afraid’ to play young call-up Polanco

In 69 starts at Single-A, Jorge Polanco hit .289 (83-for-287) with 12 doubles, five home runs and 35 RBI.

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Single-A ball is rarely a direct feeder to major-league clubs. Gimmicky mascots and small towns — it’s a level more suited for emerging young talent, a stop along the road for some who end up making it to higher levels and the end of the road for many others.

In an atypical move, the Minnesota Twins turned to their Single-A team for infield help after shortstop Danny Santana went down with a knee injury in Wednesday night’s loss to the Angels. Jorge Polanco was called up from Ft. Myers while right-hander Yohan Pino was optioned back to Triple-A Rochester.

"He’s been swinging well in A-ball," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. "It’s always exciting to see one of these young kids come up and get an opportunity. It’s unfortunate that it starts this way, with someone getting hurt. But we have him on the roster and he is available to us."

The reigning Florida State League Player of the Week, Polanco, at 20 years old, is not considered a finished product at this point but is said to have a high upside. In 69 starts this season, he’s hit .289 (83-for-287) with 12 doubles, five home runs and 35 RBI. He’s made all but one start at shortstop and was ranked as the Twins’ 10th-best prospect by Baseball America.

The publication released a short report following his promotion saying he has a strong but not above average arm, makes good contact from both sides of the plate as a switch hitter and is a threat on the basepaths.

"He can swing it," Gardenhire said. "He’s a little lose defensively, which young players happen to be there, but he has some good skills."

Polanco joined the team in Anaheim but did not start. He came in as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning for Pedro Florimon and worked a four-pitch walk against right-handed reliever Ernesto Frieri in his first major league at-bat.

Prior to the game, Gardenhire said he would have no hesitations using Polanco moving forward. It’s unknown how much action he will see or even how long he will be with the team as Santana was officially diagnosed with a left bone bruise and is listed as day-to-day.

"If I have to play him, I’ll play him. I’m not afraid to put him out there,” he said.

Pino, the 30-year-old right-hander who waited years for big league action, was sent back to the minors after making just two starts. He was tagged with the loss Wednesday night and heads back down with a 6.30 ERA in 10.0 innings pitched.