When the Twins long 2011 season came to an end, there were a lot of questions. Who would be back? Who would be healthy? However, in general, one of the players who was expected to remain with the Twins was Ben Revere. Throughout the offseason, it was just a given that, even thought he didn’t hit well in 2011, he improved his game in September and his range and speed made up for any other deficiencies. The biggest question early in the offseason was whether the Twins should have Revere play left field or center field with Denard Span playing the other position. The Twins talked about needing to improve defense throughout the offseason, and the thought of Revere and Span roaming left field and centerfield at Target Field was assumed to be part of that.
So, how did it get to the point where, last Saturday, the Twins announced Ben Revere was headed to Triple-A? How did Ben Revere get to Rochester?
OK, the literal answer is that he had a Sunday afternoon flight from Minneapolis to Rochester, NY. But I think we can all dig a little deeper than that. So many things have happened since then. Each of the following has had at least something to do with Ben Revere being back in AAA.
Terry Ryan Reclaims Twins GM Job
– When the news came that Bill Smith was losing the GM job and Terry Ryan was taking it back, Ryan did a lot of radio interviews. He was frequently asked about Denard Span and Ben Revere. When speaking of Span, he spoke glowingly about his defense, his arm, his approach at the plate, the pop in his bat, etc. When talking about Revere, it was quite clear that he felt that Revere was maybe a fourth outfielder and needed to improve.
Cuddyer/Kubel Replaced by Willingham/Doumit
– Although the Twins saved $21 million in this transition, they lose very little on the field.
Denard Span is Healthy
– Before the concussion issues last year, Denard Span was the top defensive center fielder in the league. He is also a tremendous lead-off hitter who gets on base at a great clip and has enough pop in his bat to accumulate a lot of extra base hits.
Even at that point, as spring training began, the assumption was that Span and Revere would team up in left and center with Willingham covering the smaller right field. But a couple of things happened in spring that really reduced the likelihood of playing time for Ben Revere.
Chris Parmelee’s Emergence
– Parmelee had a strong second half in New Britain, a tremendous debut in September and a strong spring. It was clear that he had won a spot on the team.
Justin Morneau as DH
– With Parmelee able to play 1B and needing to play every day, it made it much easier to let Morneau get his confidence back as a full-time DH.
The Catchers Need to Play Elsewhere
– Ryan Doumit was likely to be the Twins DH most days simply to get his bat in the lineup, but if Morneau is the DH, Doumit needs to play elsewhere. Joe Mauer will likely DH or play 1B when he doesn’t catch. That means that Chris Parmelee may need to play elsewhere. Doumit and Parmelee would not play well in left field but could hold their own in right field (and they got some time there in spring games). Gardenhire really likes Trevor Plouffe in right field.
Willingham Feels More Comfortable in Left Field
– As all of these things were pushing toward needing to find at bats for several players in right field, Revere included, Josh Willingham suddenly acknowledged that he felt more comfortable in left field. That made sense. I mean, that’s the primary position that he has played in his big league career. But, is it also possible that he moves to left and right field can be a place where Doumit, Plouffe and Parmelee can play?
Claiming Clete Thomas
– When the Twins had the opportunity to claim Clete Thomas, a guy they had drafted long ago out of high school, they jumped on it. With Thomas, they found a guy who can play all three outfield positions well, has a good arm, and has some power potential. Frankly, Revere's arm (even if it is stronger) is not strong enough for right field.
In reality, this is good news for Ben Revere for a couple of reasons:
Too Young to Sit
– With all of the above bats (Doumit, Parmelee, Plouffe) to try to fit into right field and Span and Willingham in the lineup everyday, where were the at bats for the 23-year-old? In Rochester. Most are in agreement that Joe Benson, Brian Dozier and Chris Parmelee are guys who should be playing every day in Rochester instead of playing one to three times a week in Minnesota. Revere is younger than all three of them.
Too Talented to Sit
– If there is a belief that Ben Revere’s ceiling is that of a fourth outfielder, then playing three times or less a week is fine, regardless of the age. But how quickly do we forget that he has hit .325/.384/.406 in his minor league career. Although he hit an alarming .267/.310/.309 with the Twins in 480 plate appearances in 2011, it does not mean that is his ceiling. He has about 150 plate appearances in AAA, and there are things he can work on to improve and if there is a need with the Twins, he can come up and be more ready.
In three games in Rochester this week, he has already played a game at all three outfield positions. He has made two or three diving catches already. He has also caught a ball in medium-deep centerfield and had a runner tag up and go to third on him. He is getting every day at bats as the team’s leadoff hitter. Instead of sitting on the pine with the Twins, he is getting better, and at the end of the day, that is in the best interest of Ben Revere and of the Minnesota Twins.