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Notes: Lewis HR ends drought; Polanco debuts

@dohyoungpark
March 1, 2020

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Top prospect Royce Lewis hasn't had the easiest start to Spring Training at the plate, but he turned that around with a massive homer to left field in the Twins' 8-2 loss to the Rays at Charlotte Sports Park on Sunday afternoon. Lewis, the No. 9

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Top prospect Royce Lewis hasn't had the easiest start to Spring Training at the plate, but he turned that around with a massive homer to left field in the Twins' 8-2 loss to the Rays at Charlotte Sports Park on Sunday afternoon.

Lewis, the No. 9 prospect in MLB Pipeline's Top 100, had been 0-for-11 with four strikeouts in Grapefruit League play before he got hold of a 2-1 pitch from Rays starter Joe Ryan and knocked it almost out of the stadium for a two-run shot that briefly gave the Twins the lead.

"It's been fun because I’ve been able to face [Lewis] a few times in the Minor Leagues, and that’s been good," Ryan said. "Obviously, the guy has been putting in a lot of work and had a really good time in the [Arizona] Fall League. Great hitter."

The Twins have been able to give Lewis plenty of opportunities this spring due to starting shortstop Jorge Polanco's measured recovery from arthroscopic surgery on his right ankle in November. That has been to Lewis' benefit after an oblique injury kept him out of the majority of game action last spring.

Lewis struggled to a .236/.290/.371 line last season across Class A Advanced Fort Myers and Double-A Pensacola but won the Arizona Fall League's Most Valuable Player Award for leading the league with 30 hits, including three home runs.

He worked hard over the offseason with Torii Hunter and Torii Hunter Jr. in the Dallas area to continue to be comfortable with his swing. Though Lewis has, at times, drawn criticism for his pronounced leg kick from some evaluators, he has kept it in his swing and feels that his mechanics are in a good place.

"Right now, it's very comfortable," Lewis said earlier this offseason. "That's what I'll say. I'm working on doing a little toe tap as well. It's not really to get rid of the leg kick; if anything, it's just to add to the things I do better. ... So just always continuing to add to your swing, and I think that's what I'm doing."

Manager Rocco Baldelli said after Sunday's game that the Twins are looking for Lewis to improve on his selectivity at the plate this spring as he continues to adjust to his more robust frame.

"I know he's added a little weight this year, and he's strong and he looks good," Baldelli said. "Even when he was 10 or 15 pounds less, that strength was still there. That's who he is as a player. He's an explosive guy who can create some torque. But it's also nice to see firsthand; he hit that ball well."

Polanco makes spring debut
Polanco was late in starting spring play due to his recovery from the ankle procedure, but he made his first Grapefruit League start on Sunday at designated hitter and went 2-for-3 with a double in his first at-bat and a single in the following plate appearance.

Polanco said he felt comfortable running at full speed on the double and could appear in the field soon, depending on how the ankle feels on Monday after a night of rest. He said after Sunday's game that he was confident that he would be full-go in time for Opening Day.

"Sometimes, it feels good; sometimes, it feels a little sore," Polanco said. "But it is part of the process. Once you start doing a lot more things in the field, it starts getting sore a little bit, but it's part of the process."

Baldelli said that Marwin Gonzalez should also see game action within the next several days.

Kenta, Yoshi reunited
There were plenty of Japanese media members on hand at Charlotte Sports Park to watch a familiar battle thousands of miles from home, as countrymen Kenta Maeda and Yoshitomo Tsutsugo faced off for the first time in Grapefruit League play. Maeda got the better of Tsutsugo in both plate appearances, inducing a flyout to left in the first inning and a flyout to right in the second.

Tsutsugo had gone 9-for-48 (.188) with two homers against Maeda when the pair played against each other in the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization in Japan. They last faced each other on Aug. 15, 2015, when Maeda played for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp and Tsutsugo was a member of the Yokohama DeNA BayStars.

"From today, I will [keep in touch]," Maeda said. "Starting today. We didn't really have a chance to go out for meals in Japan, but now that he's here, hopefully we'll have more opportunities."

Twins' wives drop charity softball game

The Twins' wives and girlfriends matched up against their Rays counterparts following Sunday afternoon's game, with the following players' significant others represented in the starting lineup:

1. Brianne Smeltzer, SS-LCF (Devin Smeltzer)
2. Sydne Barnes, LF (Charlie Barnes)
3. Aerial Dobnak, 3B (Randy Dobnak)
4. Taylor Poppen, C (Sean Poppen)
5. Sarah Garver, RF-DH (Mitch Garver)
6. Saige Steinmetz, 1B (Jake Cave)
7. Briana Miller, CF-SS (Josh Donaldson)
8. Madie Wisler, 2B-LCF (Matt Wisler)
9. Kate May, RCF (Trevor May)
10. Melinda Romo, DH-RF (Sergio Romo)

The Rays' wives emerged victorious in the third annual game, 20-6, behind a power show from Madison Lowe and Tobey Kittredge. The game benefited Girls on the Run Greater Tampa Bay, a charity in the Tampa Bay area, with each team making a $5,000 donation. The Rays' wives won last year in Fort Myers, and the Twins' wives won in Port Charlotte in 2018.

Up next
The Twins are set for their first cross-state trip of the spring for Monday afternoon's 12:05 p.m. CT matchup against the Cardinals in Jupiter, Fla. Rookie left-hander Devin Smeltzer will match up against St. Louis southpaw Kwang-Hyun Kim for his third start of the spring. Top prospect Jhoan Duran is also expected to make his Grapefruit League debut alongside a host of other top prospects. Duran was recently listed as the No. 5 prospect in the Twins' organization in MLB Pipeline's 2020 preseason rankings

Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.