Park delivers grand slam for first Twins homer

March 6th, 2016

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- The Twins got their first glimpse of Byung Ho Park's power on Sunday, as the Korean slugger crushed a grand slam in the first inning off Rays right-hander Jake Odorizzi in a 5-4 win at Charlotte Sports Park.

It was the first homer of the spring for Park, who signed with the Twins this offseason on a four-year deal worth $12 million after a $12.85 million posting fee. The homer came on a 1-1 fastball from Odorizzi and was hit high in the air, but kept carrying and landed just beyond the 384-foot sign in left-center field.

"He put a nice swing on a fastball and hit it so high, I knew he hit it well, but I wasn't sure," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "We saw some balls get knocked down in batting practice. It shows you a little bit about his strength out there. I didn't talk to him after, but I'm sure it's a good feeling for him to get that one out of the way."

Park, though, said he wasn't being weighed down by the pressure to hit his first homer, as it was only his fourth Spring Training game. Park is 2-for-11 with a team-high five RBIs and three runs scored so far in Grapefruit League play.

"It wasn't really on my mind," Park said through translator J.D. Kim. "These are just exhibition games, so I'm just out there to give 100 percent, trying to get things to fall into place for the regular season."

Odorizzi, who had a 3.35 ERA in 28 starts last year, said he was only throwing fastballs to Park after the bases were loaded with two outs because of an error by shortstop Tim Beckham. But he took giving up the homer in stride.

"Cool, huh? International news," Odorizzi joked. "Good for him. I'm sure it was bound to happen eventually, so as long as it doesn't happen during the season. He can hit a home run off of me every time in Spring Training."

The Twins signed Park for his prodigious power, as he hit a combined 105 homers over the last two seasons with the Nexen Heroes of the Korean Baseball Organization. Park won the MVP Award in Korea in both 2013 and '14. He struggled in his spring debut with a three-strikeout performance against the Red Sox on Wednesday, but he's started to look more comfortable at the plate.

"He's going to adjust to the game like Minor Leaguers coming up or a new guy coming to a team," Twins right-hander Kyle Gibson said. "He has to adjust to his settings. But I think once he settles in we'll see a lot more of that. He has a good swing and you can tell he has a plan. He's fun to watch up there, and he's only going to get better."

Park added it's not unusual for his homers to be hit high in the air like his majestic shot on Sunday, but admitted he thought it was a double before being told by second-base umpire Marvin Hudson it was a homer. He even stopped to take off his shin guard at second before realizing the ball had cleared the fence.

"I just thought it was a double because I had my head down and I was running as fast as I could," Park said. "I just kind of stopped and then the umpire was yelling at me, 'Home run. Home run.'"

Park, who is expected to be Minnesota's designated hitter this year, also played first base for the first time this spring on Sunday. He won three Gold Gloves in Korea at first base from 2012-14.

"It's nothing new to me," Park said. "I've been playing first base almost my whole career. I felt comfortable out there. But I was trying to pay attention to our dugout for signs from our coaching staff. But that was it."