MINNEAPOLIS (AP) The Minnesota Twins blueprint for 2018 included a dynamic young center fielder making great plays on defense and coming up with big hits. Of course, that role was supposed to be filled by Byron Buxton, once considered the top prospect in baseball.
Instead, the Twins are rallying around Jake Cave.
Cave hit his first career grand slam and closer Fernando Rodney survived a chaotic ninth inning as the Minnesota Twins beat the Kansas City Royals 6-5 on Sunday.
Buxtons 2018 has been mostly a washout due to injuries. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 draft was optioned to Triple-A Rochester and is currently on the minor league disabled list with an injured wrist. That opened the door for Cave, a 25-year-old rookie the Twins acquired in a minor league trade with the Yankees this spring.
This is my dream, said Cave, whos more or less been the Twins everyday center fielder since late June. I wouldnt have it any other way.
Cave homered in his major league debut on May 19, and he established himself with a number of highlight-reel catches along the way, earning him the trust of manager Paul Molitor. The latest step in that process is came Sunday as Molitor started the left-handed hitting Cave against a hard-throwing lefty in Kansas Citys Danny Duffy (7-10), who had been tough on the Twins in three prior starts this season.
That trust was rewarded with two outs in the second inning when Cave jumped on a full-count fastball for his first career grand slam and fourth homer of the season to put the Twins on top 4-2.
I know Duffys got good stuff, I know hes a competitor, and I know hes going to come right at me at some point with the heater, Cave said. I got it, just stayed short, didnt try to do too much, and I was rewarded.
Cave fell behind 1-2 in the at-bat and then laid off some tough pitches, including a curveball that just missed inside at 1-2 and a fastball just below the knees one pitch before the grand slam.
I had him punched out twice, and its tough to see the ball go out of the yard, Duffy said. But you still have to keep pitching.
Molitor likes what hes seen so far from the Twins second choice in center field.
Hes got a little moxie to his game. Hes not afraid to take some chances on the bases and defensively, which is good because when he got up here we said, Dont play tentative. If you play timid, the game will bite you, Molitor said. I think hes taking advantage so far. Hopefully its a good step for him as he tries to get himself established up here.
Royals: RHP Jakob Junis (6-11, 5.12 ERA) takes the mound on Monday to open a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs in Kansas City. In his last start, Junis pitched into the sixth inning and struck out five White Sox to pick up his first victory since May 18.
Twins: RHP Kyle Gibson (5-8, 3.47) will face the Indians for the second straight outing as the Twins open a three-game series in Cleveland on Monday. Gibson pitched six innings and allowed three earned runs while fanning six in a 6-2 loss to the Indians last Tuesday.
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