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Twins sit slumping Polanco second straight day

July 17, 2017

MINNEAPOLIS -- With shortstop Jorge Polanco in an extended slump, Twins manager Paul Molitor opted to keep him out of the starting lineup for a second straight day Monday, giving him time to clear his head.Polanco, who is hitting .103/.163/.154 in 11 July games, also took early batting practice, working

MINNEAPOLIS -- With shortstop Jorge Polanco in an extended slump, Twins manager Paul Molitor opted to keep him out of the starting lineup for a second straight day Monday, giving him time to clear his head.
Polanco, who is hitting .103/.163/.154 in 11 July games, also took early batting practice, working closely with hitting coach James Rowson, before the game, hitting off a tee more than an hour before the Twins took their regularly scheduled batting practice.
"I wanted to back it up two days," Molitor said. "I was hoping coming out of the break, he'd be able to slow it down and remember he's a good offensive player who is forcing the action right now."
Polanco, 24, hit .282/.335/.424 in 69 games as a rookie last year, and is a career .286/.346/.411 hitter in the Minors, but he's batting .222/.271/.319 in 72 games this year. The Twins are in a tough spot because he's out of Minor League options, having been added to the 40-man roster prior to the 2014 season.
Polanco's walk rate is slightly up from last year and his strikeout rate is down by 2.5 percentage points, but he has been hurt by a .249 batting average on balls in play after a .328 mark last year. He's not hitting the ball with as much authority, however; after an average exit velocity of 86.3 mph last year, he is at 83.4 mph this year, per Statcast™. His line-drive percentage has dropped from 30.3 percent in '16 to 17.5 percent this year, and he has seen his ground-ball rate spike from 32.8 percent to 40.6 percent.

Polanco also feasted on fastballs last year, hitting .287 with a .506 slugging percentage against them. But he's hitting only .223 with a .320 slugging against heaters this year.
"I think one of his strengths is that he knows the strike zone pretty well," Molitor said. "He seems to expand on fastballs up. He's really good at recognizing off-speed pitches out of the zone, but that hasn't been there for a while. He's getting himself out more than the pitchers right now, and that's not who he is."
With Polanco held out, Ehire Adrianza started at shortstop for a second straight game.
Worth noting
• Right-hander Bartolo Colon, who will make his Twins debut on Tuesday, arrived at Target Field early on Monday, meeting with manager Paul Molitor, but didn't talk with the media. Molitor said he asked Colon if he remembered facing him in 1998, and Colon replied that he remembered breaking three of Molitor's bats, causing Molitor to laugh. Molitor went 2-for-8 against Colon.
• Twins left-hander Hector Santiago, on the disabled list since June 28 with an upper-back strain, played catch Monday and will throw bullpen sessions Tuesday and Friday before the Twins determine his next step.
• The Twins will option first baseman Kennys Vargas to Triple-A Rochester to make room for Colon. But Minnesota also must clear a 40-man roster spot, which will be announced Tuesday.

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter **@RhettBollinger** and listen to his podcast.