While Twins audition prospects, veteran Robbie Grossman proves his value

MINNEAPOLIS -- Robbie Grossman was drafted by Pittsburgh and started his major league career with Houston, but the switch-hitting outfielder has steadily become a mainstay for the Twins.
Minnesota Twins left fielder Robbie Grossman (36) hits an RBI double during the third inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park in Houston on Sept. 4, 2018. Troy Taormina / USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS - Robbie Grossman was drafted by Pittsburgh and started his major league career with Houston, but the switch-hitting outfielder has steadily become a mainstay for the Twins.

"It's funny how this game works," Grossman said.

Grossman, 28, played his 111th game of the season on Tuesday, Sept. 11, against the Yankees at Target Field and is on pace to surpass the career-high 119 games he played last season, his second in Minnesota. Under team control through 2020, he has made his presence not only felt in Minnesota, but vital.

Grossman opted out of a deal with Cleveland after playing 34 games at Triple-A in 2016; since joining the Twins, his only minor-league time has been six rehab games with Rochester.

"All you can ask for is an opportunity, and hopefully you make the best of it," he said.

Grossman is proving his worth as the Twins audition prospects over the last month of the season. Playing left and right field, and occasionally serving as the designated hitter, he is hitting .333 with an .880 OPS since Aug. 5.

On Saturday, Grossman broke up a no-hitter by Kansas City right-hander Jorge Lopez with a ninth-inning single; on Monday, his eighth-inning double to score the Twins' first run in a 7-2 loss. This after home plate umpire Marvin Hudson had mistakenly wrung him up on a called third strike.

"It's not the first time I've seen it, but it's the first time it's happened to me," Grossman said.

Grossman was taking a practice swing when Hudson yelled, "Strike three!" - although the crew chief quickly corrected himself.

"He was like, 'Wait, that was only two strikes,' " Grossman said.

On the next pitch from Luis Cessa, Grossman lined a double to right field that scored Jorge Polanco in a two-run eighth.

Sano hits, fields

Miguel Sano, out since Sept. 4 because of pain in his lower left leg, took some batting practice and fielded a few grounders at third before Tuesday's game, his first baseball activity since being injured while stealing second in a 5-2 loss at Houston.

"First day we've seen him, which is encouraging," Molitor said. "He took some swings, a few grounders - a little gingerly, it looked like as far as his movements out there, but it's better than not doing anything."

Because rosters were expanded on Sept. 1, Sano is not on the disabled list.

An X-ray and MRI exam revealed no significant damage in the leg, the same leg into which a titanium rod was inserted to help a stress reaction heal last fall.

He missed nearly a month this season with a left hamstring injury, and spent about six weeks on an extended rehab assignment in Fort Myers, Fla., to improve his core and lower-body strength. An American League all-star last season, he is hitting .202 with 13 home runs and 41 RBIs - and 111 strikeouts - in 70 games.

Molitor said Monday he was confident his third baseman will play again before the season ends Sept. 30.

Briefly

- Left fielder Eddie Rosario was out of the lineup for the second straight game because of a quad injury.

- Tyler Austin was in the lineup as designated hitter, his first action since wrenching his back while chasing a foul ball in a 9-1 loss at Houston last Wednesday.