ST. PETERSBURG -- Denard Span has developed a reputation for seeing a lot of pitches atop the order, and the Twins have paired their leadoff man with a similarly disciplined hitter in Jamey Carroll.
Entering Saturday's game, Carroll was 12th among qualified Major Leaguers in terms of pitches seen per plate appearance at 4.27. Joe Mauer wasn't far behind, sitting 15th at 4.23 pitches per plate appearance. Carroll's professional, patient approach and solid on-base percentage intrigued the Twins when they pursued him this offseason, and they have seen it in action so far this season.
"You know Denard's always going to take pitches and is well known for that, an on-base guy. One of the things we liked about Jamey was the same thing. He's not afraid to take pitches," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He'll foul pitches off. He's not afraid to get in two-strike situations. He's a good contact guy. He does the little things right. He can do the little small-ball game of getting guys over and shooting the ball the other way."
Having the top of the order see a lot of pitches can prove to be beneficial for the middle of the lineup as well, as they've had more opportunities to see what the starting pitcher has to offer and how he's attacking hitters. So far, the Twins have to like what they've seen out of Span (.367 on-base percentage) and Carroll, who has a .355 OBP despite a .245 average due to his eight walks.
"It's important. Those are the table-setters," Gardenhire said. "The only way for the big guys to drive in runs is for guys to get on ahead of them and see a lot of pitches. Our two guys at the top both do that very well."