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Taking a chance benefiting Colabello, Twins

After choosing opportunity with Minnesota over Korea, DH off to hot start

MINNEAPOLIS -- It would've been hard to blame Chris Colabello for leaving the Twins this offseason for a chance to play in Korea.

Colabello had the opportunity to sign overseas in the Korean Baseball Organization, with a club there offering roughly $1 million for his rights. It would have been a sizeable raise for Colabello, especially considering the 30-year-old played seven seasons in the independent Can-Am League before finally joining the Twins' organization in 2012.

Colabello had also already accomplished his lifelong goal of making it to the Majors, playing in 55 games with Minnesota last year, but he saw his path blocked at first base by Joe Mauer, who is making the switch from catcher to first this year.

But Colabello went with his heart and decided to stick with the Twins. And so far it's paying dividends, as he's off to one of the best starts in the Majors and was rewarded by being the American League co-Player of the Week along with Josh Hamilton on Monday.

"My heart was here," Colabello said. "I believed I could be here. I believed I had something to offer here. If not, I definitely would've gone over there. This was what I wanted to do. I've always wanted to be in the big leagues since my earliest memories. I don't think my first goals were to eat, drink or breathe. It was to make the big leagues."

The Twins are certainly happy that Colabello decided to stick it out, as he's carried his impressive Spring Training over into the regular season while seeing time at designated hitter, first base and right field. He's been one of the biggest surprises in baseball, hitting .370/.414/.630 with one homer, four doubles and an AL-leading 11 RBIs through his first seven games this year.

"He could have been in Korea, but we're glad to have him right here," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He took a chance and it's paying off. He's in the big leagues."

But the road to the Majors was a long and unusual one for Colabello, as the Milford, Mass., native starred for Worcester in the Can-Am League for seven years before finally getting a chance with Minnesota in '12.

Colabello was assigned to Double-A New Britain in his first year with the club, and he hit .284/.358/.478 with 19 homers and 98 RBIs in 134 games to finish as the runner-up in the Eastern League MVP Award balloting. He followed that up last year by hitting .352/.427/.639 with 24 homers, 25 doubles and 76 RBIs in 89 games at Triple-A Rochester en route to winning the International League MVP Award.

But Colabello couldn't carry that success over into his first stint in the Majors, as he hit .194/.287/.344 with seven homers and three doubles in 55 games last season. He came into Spring Training battling for a roster spot and ultimately made the club after showing off his power from the right side by hitting .349 with a homer and four doubles in 23 games this spring.

"For me, it's a great story for a guy who has persevered as long as he has and had some great years in the independent leagues," assistant general manager Rob Antony said. "He didn't get a chance with a Major League organization, but when he did, he took advantage of it. He's an important guy with some right-handed power. We need offense."

Colabello also made some mechanical tweaks he believes have helped him, including simply moving closer to the plate. He still has an unorthodox approach, with most of his power going to the opposite field, but he has done a better job pulling the ball with power, including a bases-clearing double to left-center against the Indians on Saturday.

But Colabello says his confidence has been the biggest key, as he learned a lot during his time in the Majors last year -- even though the results weren't there.

"I think more than anything else, the mental changes have helped me," Colabello said. "You have to be more aware of everything around you and not let the game speed on up you. Just go into the box, take a deep breath, and say, 'Let's compete.' You can't go up there thinking, 'I need to hit a double or a homer right here.'"

The question remains whether Colabello can keep it up. He'll continue to see playing time at DH, along with the left-handed-hitting Jason Kubel, while making spot starts at first base and right field.

But Colabello remains confident that his hot start is no fluke. He's been betting on himself his whole career, and he is not going to stop now.

"I'm just trying to be myself," Colabello said. "I'm not trying to do too much. I'm staying relaxed. It's nice to have that experience last year and learn from my mistakes. I'm just trying to get better every day. The main objective as a hitter is coming to the park and making adjustments to get better."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger.

Minnesota Twins, Chris Colabello