ANAHEIM, Calif. — Maybe it’s the consistent playing time helping him get into a rhythm at the plate. Maybe it’s all the time he had to reflect while he was on the injured list that helped give him a new perspective.
Whatever it is, third baseman Kyle Farmer has given the Minnesota Twins everything they could have hoped for since he stepped into the role full-time. Farmer, who suffered a gruesome injury after being hit by a pitch on the face last month, came back on May 10, took over at third base for a slumping Jose Miranda, who was demoted to Triple-A. He’s hitting .381, .983 with OPS since that day, collecting 15 hits, including a pair of home runs, in his first 11 games back.
“Kyle Farmer is a heck of a baseball player. I like it when the ball is hit at him, and I like it when he’s coming to the plate with a bat in his hands,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “I like relying on him. He handles what comes with this job very, very well.”
Farmer was hitting .226, bouncing around the infield before an April 12 fastball to the face sent him to the hospital, requiring 35 stitches and multiple dental procedures. What’s changed for the 32-year-old, whom the Twins acquired via trade this offseason?
“I think it’s more so me learning about myself after the accident and realizing what makes who I am as a player rather than trying to do too much coming into a new team, trying to prove myself and doing a little too much whereas now I’m more comfortable and knowing who I am and knowing my role on the team.”
When the Twins first acquired Farmer, he didn’t really have a defined role on the team. Before they re-signed Carlos Correa, it looked like he could be their starting shortstop, a role he served in Cincinnati. When the season started, he was primarily playing second base with Jorge Polanco on the injured list.
Now, he’s over at third, and after a fright that kept him off the field for more than a month, the infielder described himself as more mentally free, which he thinks is helping lead to some of the recent success he’s exhibited.
“You think about a lot of stuff when you’re on the IL and you’re not playing baseball and you kind of have a new respect for the game and realize it could end at any point,” Farmer said. “Getting hit in the face, it was close to career-ending and I was just thankful that it wasn’t. Realizing how precious this game is, you just can’t take anything for granted. It’s kind of cliche to say, but it’s a real thing.”
How long Farmer remains the Twins’ everyday third baseman is anybody’s guess. Top prospect Royce Lewis has been splitting time between third base and shortstop while on his rehab assignment at Triple-A, and could force his way into the picture in the near future.
Lewis is not eligible to rejoin the team until the end of this month — he is currently on the 60-day injured list and it has not yet been 60 days — but the Twins will have a decision to make once he is. In four games with the Saints, Lewis is hitting .375 with a 1.313 OPS and three home runs.
The Twins could decide to bring him up right away if they feel he is ready. They could also option him to Triple-A at the conclusion of his rehab assignment and let him keep playing there, as they did briefly with Alex Kirilloff when his rehab clock ran up.
“He still has a ways to go as far as at-bats even though he’s put some good swings on the ball,” Baldelli said. “He’s got some playing to do right now. When we think it helps us and it works well for the team, hopefully, we have him here and see him.”
Byron Buxton was not in the lineup on Sunday, a day after he was pulled early with right knee tightness. With the Twins playing a day game, Baldelli did not have an update on the designated hitter before the game, but expected to know more about his status on Monday.
“He’s run exceptionally hard at full speed all around the field, going first to third, going down the line, scoring, sliding, doing all kinds of things out there. When he’s not doing that, if he has a few games where he’s just jogging around, it’s way easier on his body than what we’ve seen over the last week,” Baldelli said. “But that’s fine. That’s part of the game and he likes running the bases. This is something he wants to do. But it can catch up at some point and you — I don’t want to say run the risk — but this is part of the game.”
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