Tuesday, June 4, 2013

What's the Point of Clete Thomas?

Earlier this week, the Twins made a roster move to bring in some center field help for Aaron Hicks. For most of the season, the club has been without a back-up center fielder because Darin Mastroianni has been dealing with a nagging ankle injury. Even last week, Chris Parmelee had to play a defensive inning in center field in the late portion of a game. The Twins need a back-up center fielder and Thomas was one of the few options.

When Hicks was struggling at the beginning of the season, Thomas was destroying the ball for Triple-A. During the month of April, he hit .362/.456/.621 with four home runs and three doubles. There were some whispers of Thomas being brought up to replace Hicks in the line-up.

A leg injury slowed down Thomas in more recent weeks so he isn't joining the Twins on the kind of tear he was on at the start of the year. In his last ten games with Rochester, he hit .225/.311/.525 with three home runs and three doubles. 

Thomas isn't exactly a spring chicken. He is 29-years old and he has 472 MLB plate appearances under his belt. The majority of those plate appearances came with the Detroit Tigers in 2008 and 2009. Since that point, he has bouncing around in the minor leagues. Last season with the Twins, he played 12 games with the club and hit .143/.172/.286 with a home run and a double.

Things have been going better for Hicks at the plate. In the last 12 games, he is hitting .279/.295/.605 with three home runs, a triple, and three doubles. Besides the improvement at the plate, he has also been making some very good plays on the defensive side of the ball. He might not have completely figured out the big leagues but he sure looks better than some of the earlier parts of the year.

It is in the best long term interest of the team to continue to play Hicks on a regular basis. He is going to be the center fielder for this team for the next couple of seasons. Eventually, he might have to shift to a corner outfield role but that would only be to allow a younger Byron Buxton to take over in center field. Hicks needs repetitions so he is able to figure out the big league level.

Thomas took the place of left-handed relief pitcher Tyler Robertson on the 40-man roster. Robertson has some trouble controlling his breaking ball at Rochester as he walked 16 mean in almost 21 innings. His 3.05 ERA is fine but it's not exactly like the Twins will be hurting since he isn't on the roster.

Overall, it's nice to have an option in center field if Hicks needs an off day. For the most part, Thomas should be riding the bench so Hicks can be getting as much playing time as possible. Thomas provides insurance for the club in case of an injury to Hicks.

There was also word out of the Twins clubhouse that Hicks has been icing a foot after games recently. This might not be anything serious but it could be a sign of him dealing with something. Ron Gardenhire could look to give the rookie a day off in the next couple of days. Before Thomas joined the team, there were few options to take over center field.

The Twins have been playing well in the last week or so. This is a good sign but the club needs to continue to think about their future. Thomas is not going to be part of the next winning baseball team in Minnesota but he can help in the present.

Hicks is working his way through some of the rookie stumbling blocks. If the Twins need him, Thomas is there to help out when needed.

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