OAKLAND, Calif. — The Twins made what they determined was a good baseball move late Tuesday night, returning Royce Lewis to the minors for more reps. Their reasoning is that with Carlos Correa back in the roster, Lewis wouldn’t see enough consistent playing time at shortstop after 2½ years off to justify staying in the majors.
But thoughtful decisions are not always received as such in the clubhouse. And the quietest post-game atmosphere of the season, which was the case on Tuesday, would suggest this one didn’t land.
Not only did the players have to absorb a tough three-point loss on the field, but they were also shocked to discover that Lewis was returning to Triple-A St. Paul despite having a stellar start to his major league career. That Lewis was a capable backup during his 11-game stint, batting .308/.325/.564 in 40 plate appearances while playing a smooth defensive shortstop, hasn’t been lost on his teammates.
“Royce played very well,” Correa said Wednesday morning. “He’s been one of the best players on the pitch since he’s been in place. So yes, it was kind of a surprise. He’s just been so electric, so good during that time with us. …
“You’ve seen the clubhouse, you’ve seen the vibe. This will tell you what you need to know.
On Wednesday morning, Twins players publicly and privately expressed their disappointment with the decision to demote Lewis. It’s not a mutiny, it’s far from it. Players have become accustomed to the concept that baseball is a business and tough decisions are commonplace.
But that doesn’t mean they have to like him either, although Lewis could return to the team soon.
Centre-back Byron Buxton didn’t seem so surprised by the decision. But Buxton said Lewis’ presence in the clubhouse will be missed by the Twins.
“He’s a great player,” Buxton said. “He brought the energy you expect from a player every day. Obviously it wasn’t in a good mood here. But we all understand what’s going on and what the bigger picture is. is more a matter of professional moving.
After sitting down with Lewis and offering words of encouragement on Tuesday, Correa caught up with Twins manager Rocco Baldelli. He wanted to hear the team’s justification.
Baldelli and the Twins believe that Lewis just needs to play every day. After sitting out in 2020 like the rest of Minor League Baseball, Lewis missed the entire 2021 season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. He has racked up all 147 plate appearances since being named Arizona Fall League Most Valuable Player.
— Bally Sports North (@BallySportsNOR) May 8, 2022
Given his early performances at Triple A and the majors, the Twins now realize more than ever that Lewis is their shortstop of the future. They want him ready to take over in 2023 if Correa opts out of his three-year, $105.3 million contract. But Baldelli is also aware that his players could be moved by the decision.
“Any time a guy plays really well like Royce has for us, people want to keep him,” Baldelli said. “It’s quite simple. I don’t think that’s anything crazy to hear. For Royce and for us, he must continue to play. He needs to play every day. He must continue to play at shortstop. He must stand out and continue to progress. He made great progress in a very short time. He’s a very exciting young player, and he’s already proving he can do it at this level. So we just have to keep him alive.
On Wednesday, Baldelli played down the playing time Lewis would see at other positions, suggesting the Twins want him to rack up as many innings as possible at shortstop to clean up his footwork.
They are also aware of Lewis’ aggressiveness at home plate. He walked just once in 40 major league plate appearances. Even so, Lewis didn’t widen his zone and only struck four times.
With Correa back, the Twins are convinced it would be difficult to find Lewis playing time at shortstop. They could find playing time on plummeting rookie Jose Miranda or having Lewis provide Correa, second baseman Jorge Polanco, third baseman Gio Urshela or team outfielders days off. leave. He could also occasionally start at the designated hitter.
But a team that loves versatility says that’s not something they’re interested in with Lewis, at least not yet. The organization will occasionally move Lewis to Triple A, but the Twins would rather he do so in a low-pressure environment.
“He hasn’t really made it in multiple positions,” Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said. “We are excited with what he has already shown. He did exceptionally well for a young boy who hasn’t played baseball in a while. This is a huge step in the right direction. We still want him to be a shortstop. We still want this skill to continue to be developed. But we also recognise: let’s put him in Triple A for a while to give him some exposure in other places, move him around some, so he can be ready to contribute in more places this year to us, maybe in the short term. medium term. »
“He’s going back to St. Paul and he’ll be ready when the next opportunity presents itself.” #MNTwins Manager Rocco Baldelli gives his thoughts on Royce Lewis and his potential return. pic.twitter.com/kKj0qdo8eR
— Bally Sports North (@BallySportsNOR) May 18, 2022
Again, this is a well-reasoned argument. The Twins are right to want to develop their best prospect and fully prepare him for his next tour of the majors. But the decision also left some players wondering if they were as good in a team as they would have been with Correa back in the lineup and Lewis still in the mix.
When Lewis was named the AFL MVP in 2019, he played 12 games at third base and appeared in center field five times – never at shortstop.
His teammates believe Lewis is a special talent who could thrive in the winning environment they have created within the clubhouse. Although he was much more experienced at the time, Correa noted his move to third base from shortstop to work his way into Puerto Rico’s roster at the 2017 World Baseball Classic and how he handled it well.
Correa has no doubt that Lewis could do the same. But he also thought Lewis was mentally in the right place to handle the demotion.
“He took it right away,” Correa said. “He knows he belongs here and will come back here at some point.
“I had conversations with Rocco (Tuesday) evening. We talked about his plan and everything. What they think makes sense. They are the ones leading the team and they know what they have to do .
“It’s moving. He is part of our family. He played very well when he was here. The teammates showed their support and that we have his back. It’s always difficult to see a great player like him being demoted. But now we have to focus on winning matches.
Twins rout Oakland
Sonny Gray was ready to dive deep into the game if necessary. His offense made that a moot point.
The right-handed veteran had his longest start to the season, going six innings on Wednesday afternoon. The Twins offense rewarded him with a 14-point outburst.
Gary Sánchez doubled, singled and drove in three runs, and Luis Arraez had three hits and scored four runs as the Twins beat the Oakland A’s 14-4 at Oakland Coliseum. After a slow start, Gray picked it up and was snappy in the sixth inning, limiting the A’s to two runs and five hits while striking out five and walking none.
“I want to (go deeper into the games),” Gray said. “I was ready to fight to stay in this game if the score was closer because I felt really good. I was ready to stay there, which is a good sign. … Feeling like you feel like you can go further, just because it didn’t happen, that’s OK. But just saying to yourself “I’m fine, I’m going to stay locked up and I’m ready to go back”, that’s a good thing. With the score, it probably didn’t make sense today, but I was good with it.
— Bally Sports North (@BallySportsNOR) May 18, 2022
Sánchez helped provide Gray with good cushion early on when he dumped a two-out single, loaded with bases and broken left to give the Twins a 2-0 lead. Gio Urshela’s two-out single gave the Twins a three-run cushion, and they never looked back.
Although Gray struggled through traffic the first two innings, he struck out the last 10 batters he faced. He threw strikes on 55 of 84 pitches and was ready to throw longer if needed. The Twins offense ensured that would not be necessary.
Sánchez doubled in a run in the third inning, while Arraez doubled in a run in the fourth and Correa followed with an RBI single. Playing in his first game since sustaining a major contusion on May 6, Correa went 2 for 4 with two runs and a walk.
Over his last six games, Sánchez is 8-for-23 with four doubles, three home runs and eight RBIs.
“He had some good at-bats, like we talked about, where maybe things didn’t break, or he hit balls on the track a mile in the air,” Baldelli told about Sanchez. “He’s been on a lot of ground. He had a lot of good swings. We don’t owe you anything in this game, but it feels good to see a guy who swung the bat well and probably didn’t get all the production he put in with a big hit like that in a big spot early in the game.
chris paddack at Tommy John’s surgery
Twins starting pitcher Chris Paddack underwent season-ending elbow surgery in Dallas on Wednesday morning, Baldelli announced. The twins reported that the operation was successful. More information on Paddack’s rehab program will be provided at a later date.
Paddack, who was acquired along with reliever Emilio Pagán from the San Diego Padres in exchange for reliever Taylor Rogers on April 7, was 1-2 with a 4.03 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 22 1/3 innings launched. He had previously undergone Tommy John surgery in 2016.
“Chris has been through some things in his career and his health, but he has to get stronger and be right,” Baldelli said. “We need a good version of him moving forward. We need the best possible version of him, and the best possible version of Chris Paddack is to get healthy again and have that procedure. and to rehabilitate and regain his full strength. He’s an ultra-talented young man with a great work ethic, and I think he has an incredibly bright future with us. But the only way to get there is let him take care of business now and do it.
— Athleticism‘s Ken Rosenthal contributed to this report.
(Photo: Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)