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Cave's all-around skills a boon to Twins

Outfielder thankful for new opportunity, ready to help club any way he can
Special to MLB.com

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Outfielder Jake Cave is excited for a new opportunity to play, but his father, Bryan, is even more excited that Jake will be getting that opportunity in a Twins uniform. The elder Cave was a huge fan of Twins legendary slugger Harmon Killebrew growing up.

Cave was acquired by the Twins on Friday in a deal that sent Minor League pitching prospect Luis Gil to the Yankees. Although he didn't have much familiarity with the current roster of players, Cave has a good sense of the organization's history.

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BRADENTON, Fla. -- Outfielder Jake Cave is excited for a new opportunity to play, but his father, Bryan, is even more excited that Jake will be getting that opportunity in a Twins uniform. The elder Cave was a huge fan of Twins legendary slugger Harmon Killebrew growing up.

Cave was acquired by the Twins on Friday in a deal that sent Minor League pitching prospect Luis Gil to the Yankees. Although he didn't have much familiarity with the current roster of players, Cave has a good sense of the organization's history.

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"I remember being young and watching those home run derbies they would have on TV, where nobody was out there, they would just be throwing BP, and Harmon Killebrew would come on," Cave said. "He'd have me watch him."

Jake began following other iconic Twins, such as his new manager Paul Molitor, and slugger Michael Cuddyer, who also grew up near Cave's childhood home in Hampton, Va.

"I'm a huge Cuddyer fan," Cave admitted. "I kept up with him a little bit because I knew he was from the area. From everything that I've seen or heard, he was a very class act guy. So I'm a big fan of Cuddyer. Also he could really really hit."

Just 24 hours after he was acquired, Cave capped off what he called a weird week by starting in center for the Twins in a 13-5 loss to the Pirates at LECOM Park in Bradenton. He went 0-for-3 after he flied out to left in the second, and grounded out to second in the fourth. Including his time with the Yankees, Cave is batting .136 (3-for-22), with one run driven in and a stolen base this spring.

"Ball comes off the bat well. I'm just kind of watching how he sets up and loads, and it all looks good," Molitor said of his first reactions to his latest addition.

Cave still has three Minor League options remaining, meaning he will likely start the season at Triple-A Rochester to provide insurance in case of an injury or opening on the big league roster. That was more than he could have expected with New York, which has corner outfielders Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge locked into starting roles, and additional depth in the Minors.

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"It's a change of scenery that I think could really help my career," Cave said. "I love the guys over there at the Yankees, and I made a lot of friendships that I'm probably going to have forever, but as far as a career standpoint for me and my family, there really wasn't anywhere to go.

"I feel that if I play the way I can play, I'll have a chance at some point to really help this club out."

Cave, 25, had been designated for assignment by New York on Monday after the Yankees picked up second baseman Neil Walker. The former sixth-round pick in the 2011 MLB Draft had been on Twins chief of baseball operations Derek Falvey's radar for sometime. Cave brings versatility with the ability to play all three outfield positions, and even showed he has some pop after hitting 15 home runs in 72 games to go with a .324 average for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre during his first taste of Triple-A ball. Before last season's surge, Cave had never reached double digits in homers.

"It's not so much one loud tool," Falvey said. "He's not a big power guy, or on-base alone, or defense. I would say it's more the skill set that is broadened across all his tools. He's a well-rounded player.

"Last year, he made some adjustments that we thought led to the power surge that he had, and we think those will continue moving forward. If we see a little bit more power, it makes it even more exciting for us. We think there is the potential for that."

Cave said the added power wasn't necessarily a result of any change in his swing, but in his mental approach at the plate.

"I changed some things mechanically, got a little more into my legs, but for the most part, when I was in a situation that could help the club, I was trying to drive the ball," Cave said. "Certain situations like two outs and nobody on, you know, what's a single going to do? It might get the next guy up but a double or a home run might do the situation a little better. So I kept that approach, and once you get rolling you feel more comfortable, more confident up there. And once you feel confident, that's when your swing starts to take it to them."

J. Scott Butherus is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Twins on Saturday.

Minnesota Twins, Jake Cave