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Twins preparing Royce Lewis to help big league team at other positions

Since being optioned back to St. Paul, the shortstop has played games at third base and in left field

MLB: Cleveland Guardians at Minnesota Twins
Minnesota Twins shortstop Royce Lewis makes a putout May 14 against the Cleveland Guardians during the third inning at Target Field.
Jeffrey Becker / USA Today Sports
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Since being optioned to Class AAA St. Paul on May 18, Royce Lewis has added a few new positions to his resume. In four games with the Saints, Lewis has played two games at shortstop, one at third and one in left field.

That, Minnesota Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said, is so the rookie will be comfortable playing something other than short if he’s recalled this season.

“If he’s going to help us this year again at some point — which, it’s a long year, I would expect him to help us again at some point — it gives him the ability and the confidence to come to this level and potentially contribute not as a shortstop,” Baldelli said before the Twins’ game against the Detroit Tigers on Monday at Target Field.

Lewis, who turns 23 on June 5, was something of a revelation during his first major league stint — as much as No. 1 overall pick can be a revelation, anyway. Still only 22, he hit .308 with five runs scored, four doubles and two home runs, including a grand slam, in 11 games May 6-17.

He also played a creditable shortstop while filling in for injured Carlos Correa, out after being hit on the right hand by a pitch. Baldelli was careful on Monday to stress that as far as the Twins are concerned, Lewis is a shortstop and will spend the vast majority of his time playing short — presumably so he can start there for the Twins next season.

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Correa is in the first year of a three-year, $105.3 million contract but can opt out after each of the first two seasons. In the meantime, the Twins are interested in bring Lewis back at some point this season, even if Correa is healthy and he has to play somewhere else.

“I believe in Royce, and I believe in his work habits and his ability to adapt,” Baldelli said. “I think he’ll be able to handle that. But I do think even just a handful of games can be very important for him.”

The Saints were off Monday. Since being optioned back, Lewis is hitting .375 (6 for 16) with a home run and three runs scored.

“We’re not talking about something that’s going to take away from his ability to play in the middle of the field at shortstop,” Baldelli said. “I think we’re talking about maybe a game a week in the outfield, something along those lines. An occasional game at third base, just so he can see it. Just so he can see the throws and the angles and the ball coming off the bat.”

SETTLING IN

It was a lean start to the season for Kyle Garlick, who batted .118 with one homer and two RBIs in his first 11 games. And when he started to pull out of his hitting slump, a calf strain sent him to the injured list.

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But that 15-day stay on the IL didn’t throw the outfielder off his game. After Monday night’s 5-4 victory over Detroit, Garlick was hitting .438 with three home runs and eight RBIs in his past eight games. Garlick’s pinch-hit single in the ninth moved Max Kepler to third with no outs to set up Gio Urshela’s winning single against a drawn-in infield.

“Garlick goes out there and does his thing, which is kind of what he does, and that was great,” Baldelli said after the game.

It’s been a long road for Garlick, 30. Claimed off waivers after the 2020 season, he has played more major league games in Minnesota, 54, than he did with his first two clubs, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Philadelphia (42) and has started 10 of his 19 big league games this season in right field, left field or as the designated hitter.

“I’ve seen a lot of players kind of blossom later in their career,” he said. “They have ups and downs, and I think the ones that can grind through that and come out on top, it makes you mentally stronger and then you kind of feel like you can overcome anything.”

BRIEFLY

Left-hander Danny Coulombe, on the IL since May 11 with a left hip impingement, appears close to returning. It was unclear Monday whether he would be sent on a rehab assignment, but Baldelli said, “He’s tracking to be back this week at some point in the middle of the week.” … Spencer Steer, the Twins’ third-round pick in the 2019 amateur draft, was promoted to Class AAA St. Paul on Monday. Steer, 24, was hitting .307 with eight home runs, 30 RBIs and 27 runs scored in 35 games with the Double-A Wichita Wind Surge.

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