First cycle of 2019 belongs to Jorge Polanco

Michael Cuddyer the last to accomplish the feat for the Twins in 2009

April 6th, 2019

PHILADELPHIA -- The Twins played a sloppy game through a windy, rainy night at Citizens Bank Park on Friday, but Minnesota shortstop Jorge Polanco continued his strong start to the 2019 campaign by hitting for his first career cycle and knocking out a career-high five hits in the club's 10-4 loss against the Phillies.

It marked the 15th cycle in franchise history, including the 11th since the team moved to Minnesota in 1961. The Twins' last cycle also came in Interleague Play, when Michael Cuddyer accomplished the feat on May 22, 2009, against the Brewers.

“Jorge is very workmanlike in the way he goes about everything,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He prepares very well. It's rare to see something like this. You don't see it very often. But for him, and a player of that caliber, I'm not surprised to see him do it. It was very cool to be a part of just as a spectator.”

Polanco got the triple out of the way early, when he launched a fly ball to center field in the first inning that caromed off the wall despite a leaping attempt by center fielder Odubel Herrera. Polanco followed that with a single up the middle in the third inning and lined his first homer of the year into the right-field corner in the fifth.

The 25-year-old Polanco said that he knew the inning before his fourth at-bat that he needed a double to complete his first cycle, but those thoughts disappeared once he actually stepped into the batter’s box.

“When I went to hit, I was just thinking to just get a good pitch and hit it,” Polanco said.

After moving to the right-handed batter’s box for the first time against Phillies southpaw Adam Morgan, Polanco doubled down the left-field line on a 1-1 changeup over the heart of the plate to complete the feat.

In the ninth inning, Polanco lined another single into right field for his career-best fifth hit, giving him the Twins’ only five-hit cycle since the team moved to Minnesota. The only other five-hit cycle in franchise history was by Joe Cronin, for the Washington Senators, on Sept. 2, 1929.

Polanco, who signed a five-year, $25.75 million extension with two option years during Spring Training, leads the Twins with 11 hits through the first six games of the season, including a homer, two triples and three doubles.

"I feel really good at the plate,” Polanco said. “Just trying to take my pitches, waiting for my pitch in the zone, and getting base hits."

Rainy, windy conditions lead to sloppy execution for pitchers, fielders

None of the things that  tried to do to gain any sort of feel for his pitches in Friday’s rainstorm worked -- and that was apparent on his first pitch of the game, which slipped out of his hand and nearly hit  in the head.

“I was trying everything humanly possible to get a feel for the ball,” Odorizzi said. “Blowing, wiping -- the rosin bag was soaked with water. There was really not much I didn't try out there to try to find a grip. It was just slipping out right at the end. It was going every which direction.”

Odorizzi lasted only two outs and 36 pitches before Baldelli pulled him from the game, and his struggles were a microcosm of the Twins’ overall pitching and fielding issues on a soggy Philadelphia night. Six Minnesota pitchers combined to walk nine batters, and the defense committed three errors and several more miscues, giving a potent Phillies attack too many chances for the Twins’ offense to keep up.

“It wasn't a day where we went out there and executed, really, at all,” Baldelli said. “The effort was there and our guys kept at it, which I'm happy about. But as far as the way we executed, it definitely was not our best.”

Several throws from the outfield were wild or mishandled.  overran a foul popup and dropped a throw on a ground ball.  held onto ’ seventh-inning, bases-loaded single for too long, allowing  to alertly scamper home all the way from first base. And the Twins couldn’t close out innings, allowing seven runs to score with two outs.

“The execution was not exactly what we needed it to be,” Baldelli said. “We're not in another world where we get those outs. If we do, we're maybe still playing right now. But when you have runners on base and you have two outs, that's when you lock in and focus and try to make good pitches. Our guys have done that throughout all year. Just not tonight.”

“Just one to forget for a lot of guys besides Jorge,” Odorizzi said.

Twins could call up additional bullpen help

Odorizzi’s exit in the first inning could snowball into a bigger roster problem for the Twins, who are carrying only 11 pitchers early in the season due to the generous distribution of off-days. Fifth starter  was able to pitch on normal rest out of the bullpen, but lasted just 2 2/3 innings on 72 pitches, requiring Minnesota to dig deeper into its short bullpen than Baldelli had hoped.

Every Twins reliever except  and  pitched at least an inning in Friday's game, and with four more games remaining on the road trip, Baldelli said that the Twins’ staff would discuss the possibility of roster moves to bring in bullpen reinforcements.

“We definitely went through more of our guys than we probably planned or hoped for,” Baldelli said. “It's not about just tomorrow -- it's about figuring out how to get through the weekend and also go out there and compete and not just try to get through games, but try to field as competitive a staff as we can to not just cover innings, but win.”

The Rochester Red Wings, the Twins’ Triple-A affiliate, are in Allentown, Pa., a little more than an hour’s drive from Philadelphia, which could alleviate the logistical difficulties of roster moves before Saturday’s scheduled day game. Fernando Romero, Andrew Vasquez and Tyler Duffey could be candidates to bolster the bullpen.