Twins optimistic about South Korean slugger so far

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Byung Ho Park's baseball aptitude and clubhouse presence have drawn rave reviews from Twins teammates, coaches and management.Regular-season results trump spring highlights, and to be sure the South Korean slugger will be scrut...

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Minnesota Twins designated hitter Byung Ho Park bats against the New York Yankees during a game March 20 at CenturyLink Sports Complex. (Photo by Jerome Miron / USA TODAY Sports)

BRADENTON, Fla. - Byung Ho Park’s baseball aptitude and clubhouse presence have drawn rave reviews from Twins teammates, coaches and management.
Regular-season results trump spring highlights, and to be sure the South Korean slugger will be scrutinized daily for how he competes against baseball’s best pitching in games that matter.
Still, Park’s transition from the Korean Baseball Organization to designated hitter and part-time first baseman behind Joe Mauer has the Twins optimistic as he embarks on his North American career.
“It couldn’t have worked out better,” general manager Terry Ryan said Monday. “His defense has been good. His work ethic has been phenomenal. He’s become a tremendous teammate. He’s been a threat in the batter’s box. He’s taking quality at-bats for the most part.”
Tracking sharper breaking balls and higher-velocity fastballs generally are the biggest major league hitting adjustments.
Park is hitting .283 with three home runs, three doubles and 13 runs batted in in 46 spring at-bats, with an .850 OPS. He has struck out 12 times. His 24.4 percent strikeout rate is slightly lower than his regular-season rate (25.4 percent) the past two seasons in the KBO.
The Twins hired a full-time interpreter to help Park communicate with teammates, staff and media, although his rudimentary English has improved to the point where manager Paul Molitor can talk strategy.
Park has been included in the Twins’ “The Bachelor” viewing parties, and his humor has begun to resonate within the wisecracking musings of a baseball clubhouse.
“He’s got a thick skin and he’s not afraid to dish it back,” Ryan said. “All he does is go out and do his job. He’s a good baseball player. He’s got to take it north and we’ve got to see it when the games start.”
Meanwhile, veteran outfielder Carlos Quentin told the Twins he plans to retire rather than report to the minor leagues.
“He’s going home to be with his family,” Ryan said before Minnesota’s game against the Pirates.
Quentin was demoted to Triple-A Rochester last week and decided over the weekend that he would not accept the assignment, making him a free agent.
The Twins had hoped the 33-year-old would report to the Red Wings to bolster their outfield depth behind maturing Byron Buxton and right-field experiment Miguel Sano.
Molitor said Quentin has big-league staying power after he played just five games in 2015, all at Triple-A in the Seattle Mariners’ system.
“I don’t know if disappointment’s the word,” Molitor said. “I encouraged him to do what was best for his personal situation. I wouldn’t be surprised, if he continues to play elsewhere, to see him the big leagues at some point. I hope it goes well for him.”
Quentin hit .250 in 36 spring at-bats. Minnesota invited him to big-league camp after the Mariners released him. He also spent time with the Atlanta Braves.
Plagued by knee injuries, Quentin is trying to revive his career. He hit 36 home runs with 100 RBIs for the 2008 Chicago White Sox and is a two-time all-star.
“If somebody would call him and offer him a major league job, maybe that would be a different scenario,” Ryan said. “But he doesn’t have much interest in going to Triple-A with us, and I don’t believe he has any interest in going to Triple-A with anybody else.”

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