Posted on 16 August 2012.
MINNEOLIS A glance at the American League batting race shows two names very familiar to Minnesota Twins fans high on the leaderboard. One has been there before, and the other is in that mix for the first time.
The familiar one is catcher Joe Mauer, who, after going 2-for-4 Wednesday against Detroit, is batting .320 — good for third among all American League hitters. Mauer is certainly no stranger to batting races, as he has won three AL batting titles during his nine-year career. His first came in 2006, when he led the league with a .347 average. He then won consecutive batting titles in 2008 and 2009, when he hit .328 and .365, respectively.
Just behind Mauer is 24-year-old Twins teammate Ben Revere. Though the speedy outfielder has proved he can hit at every minor league level, the success he’s having in the majors this season is new for him. He’s was batting .319 through Wednesday, tied with Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. Angels rookie sensation Mike Trout leads all AL hitters with a .340 average.
In his first full season in the majors last year, Revere hit .267 in 117 games. He’s now batting 50 points higher through 82 games, and he recently qualified for the batting race by reaching the necessary 3.1 plate appearances per team game. Revere spent part of the season at Triple-A Rochester before getting hot with the Twins.
Now that he is officially among the leaders, Revere insists he won’t be paying attention to where his average ranks among American League hitters. He’s more focused on helping the struggling Twins climb out of the AL Central cellar.
“The only thing I keep track of is wins and losses,” Revere said. “Of course, I’ve been hearing about it. It’s good to qualify for it. Right now, I want to finish strong for the team.”
At every stop in the minors, Revere was at least a .300 hitter. He batted .325 in rookie ball with the Twins’ Gulf Coast League team in 2007. A year later, he hit .379 with Low-A Beloit in 83 games. As he climbed through the ranks, Revere continued to hit well — .311 at High-A Fort Myers in 2009, .305 with Double-A New Britain in 2010 and .303 in just 32 games with Triple-A Rochester last season before sticking for good in the majors.
The Twins selected Revere with the 28th overall pick in the first round of the 2007 draft. Coming out of Lexington (Ky.) High School, Revere’s lack of power at the plate and a weak arm in the field scared some teams. But he showed he had speed and could hit for average, so Minnesota took a chance on him.
“That was a controversial draft when the selection was made. We took a lot of abuse,” Twins general manager Terry Ryan said. “A little guy, no power, all that stuff, he doesn’t throw particularly well. … You can find guys that can run, but it’s very difficult to find guys that can run the way he can that can hit. And left-handed pitchers don’t bother him, either.
“He’s done well. He’s got great makeup. He’s just a good human being.”
Part of the problem for Revere in 2011 was that he put the ball in the air too often. This season, he’s been hitting more line drives and finding the gaps for extra-base hits. His speed has also allowed him to turn ground balls into infield hits.
And as Ryan alluded to, the left-handed hitting Revere has certainly not been intimidated by left-handed pitching. He is actually hitting better against left-handers (.362) than righties (.300).
“He’s a tough kid. I know he walks around this place with a smile on his face all the time, and we love that part of it, but he’s pretty tough,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He doesn’t back away from people. … He’s been a good player for us this year, and we thought he would be.”
The Twins have had the luxury of using Revere and Mauer back-to-back in the lineup for a good part of the season, with Revere hitting second and Mauer third.
“He’s usually on base when he’s in front of you. That’s really nice,” Mauer said.
Of Mauer’s 59 RBI this season, 11 have scored Revere. Only leadoff hitter Denard Span has scored more times on a Mauer RBI (23). Plus, the youngster Revere is picking up a few things from the veteran catcher.
“If I could have the same batting approach like him, I think it would make the game a lot easier,” Revere said of Mauer. “He’s a heck of a player. That’s why he’s got three batting titles under his belt right now. … I told him not to change his game; I won’t change mine. We’re just going to go at it.”
Neither Mauer nor Revere admits to keeping an eye on their averages to see how they stack up against the rest of the American League, but Revere has noted Trout’s impressive season. In fact, the two were lockermates at the 2010 MLB Futures Game and occasionally go back and forth at each other on Twitter.
Regardless of whether Mauer or Revere ends up catching Trout in the batting race, the two left-handers have given Twins fans something to cheer for despite the team’s record — even if the players themselves aren’t paying attention to it.
“If you were interested in that, it’s still pretty early for that. That’s something I’ve never worried about,” Mauer said about the batting race. “You just want to have good, quality at-bats and productive at-bats. Keep continuing to do that throughout the rest of the season.”
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