Twins Tuesday: Chris Colabello named International League MVP

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota’s Chris Colabello awoke Tuesday morning to a flurry of congratulatory text messages on his phone. What he was being congratulated for, he wasn’t quite sure.

That is, until he saw one text that read, “Congrats on the MVP.”

Even then, Colabello was a bit stunned as the news didn’t initially sink in. Finally, though, he learned that he had been named the International League’s Most Valuable Player as well as the league’s Rookie of the Year. Thought currently in the major leagues, Colabello had an impressive season with Triple-A Rochester. He batted .352 — which is still tops in the league — with 24 home runs and 76 RBI.

Those numbers are impressive on their own, but they’re even more impressive when you look at where Colabello was just two short seasons before tearing up the International League. The 29-year-old Massachusetts native spent seven years playing independent ball in the Canadian-American Association. He finally got his chance with the Twins in 2012 and spent the year at Double-A New Britain.

One year later, he was the MVP of the International League.

“Obviously it’s something I’ll remember for a long time,” Colabello said. “I certainly wasn’t sure or didn’t think necessarily I was going to get it or anything like that. I tried not to think too much about it. It’s nice to be recognized.”

Colabello has bounced around a bit between the minors and majors, and his numbers at Rochester could have been even gaudier if not for the 31 games he’s already played in the major leagues. He hasn’t quite replicated the success he had in the IL, however, at this level. Entering Tuesday’s game against Kansas City, Colabello is batting just .204 with four homers and eight RBI as he continues to adjust to major league pitching.

It’s been tough as he’s made several flights between Minneapolis and Rochester, N.Y., as the Twins sent him down on Aug. 16 and recalled him just five days later.

“It’s all up to the player. He took advantage of it and got it done and drove in runs and forced the hands of the organization to move him up, and look where he’s at now. He’s in the big leagues,” said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. “That’s just a guy that wanted it and never quit, never gave up his dream. This Most Valuable Player thing down there in that league is a really nice award. He’s done a lot of really good things for Rochester and for himself. He’s handled himself very well, and he’s fun to have here in the big leagues, too.”

Mauer improving, but no timetable: Twins catcher Joe Mauer was placed on the 7-day concussion disabled list last Tuesday. And while he was eligible to come off the DL this Tuesday, it appears as if it will be a while before he sees the field again.

The injury happened when Mauer took a foul ball off the mask Monday against the Mets. One day later, he didn’t feel right during batting practice in Detroit and was determined to have concussion-like symptoms. Gardenhire said Tuesday that Mauer was “getting better,” but the skipper didn’t have a timetable for his star catcher’s return.

“He says he feels actually pretty decent,” Gardenhire said. “He’s had some rough days at home. Seeing a lot of people walking around, all those things, still bothers him a little bit. He’s getting better. It’s just going to take time here.”

It’s not the first time Minnesota has had a player on the 7-day concussion DL this year. Outfielder Wilkin Ramirez, third baseman Trevor Plouffe and catcher Ryan Doumit all landed on that list this year. This marks the first time in Mauer’s career that he’s been on it, and it’s clear that the Twins will take a cautious approach with the former MVP.

“We’ll just have to wait and see,” Gardenhire said. “They’ve got to tell me when to play him. We’ll discuss it with him once we get the (go-ahead) from the doctor. There’s no sense in us talking about it until he gets back.”

Carroll returns to Target Field: Royals infielder Jamey Carroll returns to Target Field this week for the first time since the Twins traded him to Kansas City. The 39-year-old utility man spent 2012 and most of 2013 with Minnesota before he was dealt to the Royals on Aug. 11.

Carroll was not in Kansas City’s lineup for the series opener Tuesday, and he has just 21 at-bats and only one hit with the Royals since the trade.

“He’s still three hits shy of 1,000, and he left here four hits shy of 1,000,” Gardenhire joked. “That’s the first thing I said to him, ‘How many hits you got left?'”

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