Twins Friday: Colabello ready to flaunt improved play against Tigers

Chris Colabello is driving in runs at a pace of one RBI every 3.19 at-bats, which is the best rate in all of baseball.

Brian Blanco/Brian Blanco/Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — Chris Colabello had just finished his first season with the Worcester Tornadoes of the independent Canadian-American Association when he thought he finally had his foot in the door with a major league team.

It was 2006 when Colabello signed a minor league contract with the Detroit Tigers. He was already down in Florida working out with Italy’s World Baseball Classic team when the Tigers asked him to attend a tryout. Colabello did enough to land a minor league deal and took part in his first minor league camp.

Twenty-two days later, though, Colabello was released and his dream of playing in the big leagues was put on hold. He went back to Worcester, where he eventually spent six more seasons.

"I try not to let it bother me too much," Colabello said. "They said a lot of nice things. I knew I had a home in Worcester in case things didn’t work out. I just kind of took it in stride and went from there."

Colabello learned plenty from his first minor league camp — including the fact that a lot of players get invited to camp, and not all of them stick around. He also learned just how hard the path to the majors is.

Eight years later, Colabello is not only playing in the majors but he’s been one of baseball’s best hitters through the early part of the season. He enters Friday’s game against the same Tigers team that once released him with an American League-leading 26 RBI. He’s driving in runs at a pace of one RBI every 3.19 at-bats, which is the best rate in all of baseball.

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Colabello played in three games against Detroit last year, his first year in the majors. Now he has a chance to face the Tigers again this weekend and show them just how far he’s come since he was cut from their minor league camp back in 2006.

"It’s a lot of fun to watch," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Colabello. "That’s the greatest thing about the game, you never know what’s going to happen. You just go out and play the game. (Colabello’s) playing it as well as anybody right now, driving in runs for us.  . . . As the RBIs will tell you, he’s been clutch for us."

Arcia, Willingham continuing to make progress: The Minnesota Twins have scored the third-most runs in baseball heading into the weekend, but they’ve done so without two of their big bats in the lineup for most of the season.

Outfielders Oswaldo Arcia and Josh Willingham have both been on the 15-day disabled list since earlier this month, but Gardenhire said Friday that both players are continuing to take steps toward returning to the lineup.

Arcia, sidelined with a wrist injury, is ahead of Willingham on the return trail. He took swings on the field prior to Friday’s game, and Gardenhire said Arcia "felt great." Assistant general manager Rob Antony said Arcia will head to Rochester, N.Y., on Saturday to begin his rehab assignment with the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings.

"We’re just moving closer to getting him in and going and playing some baseball here," Gardenhire said of Arcia. "If everything goes good and keeps going like it is, we’ll get him going on his way and go down and get some swings."

An MRI in mid-April revealed a small fracture in the pisiform bone in Willingham’s hand after he was hit in the hand by a pitch. He’s scheduled to meet with doctors either Friday or Saturday.

"They’re still holding him back here a little bit," Gardenhire said. "His hand feels a lot better.  . . . He thinks early this next week he’ll be able to start taking swings out there and maybe start a rehab after that."

Good news for Minnesota GM: Twins general manager Terry Ryan, who was diagnosed with cancer in February, had his last round of radiation on Wednesday, according to Antony.

Ryan was originally diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma when a lump was discovered on his neck during a routine physical. He has since been receiving treatment at both the Mayo Clinic and Minnesota Oncology. Ryan has been around the ballpark on occasion, but his treatments have prevented him from fulfilling his GM duties on a regular basis. Antony has been serving as the acting GM in Ryan’s absence, but the hope is that Ryan will be back at the park soon.

"I think he was kind of warned that once you get through with this, the last week of it is pretty intense," Antony said. "I’m not sure what he’s going to feel up to. He hasn’t talked about it. This is all still part of the recovery. It’s best if he doesn’t try and overdo it and allows his body to recover."

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