CHICAGO — There were clues, Jorge Polanco noticed, that his quickness had returned, that his sore back had disappeared. When he ducked just in time to avoid having his birthday cake shoved in his face by teammates, for instance.
“They tried,” Polanco said of an impromptu Tuesday clubhouse celebration of his 29th birthday. “They tried, but I was quick enough” to get out of the way.
Also making it obvious he’s healthy again: He has hit five home runs since returning to action eight days earlier, including a pair in Wednesday’s 9-8 loss to the White Sox.
“His timing and that simple approach that he’s known for, that very simple setup and the way he attacks the ball — we’re seeing that again,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “There’s no overcomplication. He’s very direct right now. He’s able to use the whole field. We saw him hit a ball in our bullpen the other day at a big moment. He’s turning on balls when he’s being challenged more in the middle or up-and-in part of the [strike] zone.”
Polanco pulled a two-run shot just over the right-field wall in the fifth inning off former teammate Lance Lynn, then hit a 402-foot blast to the same part of the park two innings later, giving him 12 homers for the season.
Chalk it up to good health, he said.
“It just makes everybody feel better at the plate, you know?” Polanco said. “When you’re hurt, you just want to be better. I feel better.”
Max Kepler made a diving catch of Tim Anderson’s line drive on Wednesday. But Harry Welsh may have made an even more impactful catch for the Twins.
“Harry did a really nice job today,” Baldelli agreed.
Welsh mans the replay screens in the Twins’ clubhouse, watching for umpires’ mistakes that the Twins can challenge. He spotted one in the first inning, one that apparently eluded nearly everyone on the field. For the third consecutive day, the Twins drew a couple of first-inning walks and loaded the bases and the White Sox appeared to escape the situation without a run.
Alex Kirilloff hit a one-out ground ball to the right of second base, where shortstop Anderson, shifted over against the left-handed hitter, scooped it up, tagged Kepler on his way to second base, and threw to first to retire Kirilloff. The White Sox jogged off the field, and the Twins cursed their luck.
Everyone but Welsh, who noticed something that both teams and umpire David Rackley had missed: Anderson tagged Kepler with his glove, but was holding the baseball in his hand as he prepared to throw the ball.
“You always double-check on double plays, just to make sure everything is clean,” Welsh said. “And I noticed the ball was coming out of [Anderson’s] glove so I slowed it down. He kind of did a fake tag, and I just said, ‘challenge, challenge’ right away.”
Within seconds — managers have only 20 seconds to challenge a call — Baldelli was notified that Anderson hadn’t legally tagged Kepler, and Baldelli made the decision to ask for a replay.
“In the first inning, it kind of has to be 100 percent. And it was,” Welsh said of the play, which was overturned, allowing Luis Arraez to score from third. “The game moves fast for everybody, so we just try to make sure they get it right. And take advantage when there’s a run out there to be scored.”
- Righthanded reliever Juan Minaya cleared waivers on Wednesday and agreed to return to Class AAA St. Paul rather than become a free agent. Minaya, who lost his roster spot on Monday when the Twins activated Trevor Megill, went through the same process last month after being cut on June 8.
- Righthander Chris Paddack, who started five games for the Twins before undergoing season-ending elbow surgery, will be in the dugout when his teammates play the Rangers this weekend in Arlington, Texas. Paddack has been rehabbing in Dallas after having Tommy John surgery there in mid-May.
- The Twins’ three homers Wednesday give them 311 all-time in Guaranteed Rate Field’s 31 seasons, passing Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium as the site of the most road home runs in Twins history.