Sports Odds & Ends
Editor’s Note: Since this story was written, Royce Lewis has been sent back to Class AAA St. Paul as Carlos Correa is healthy and back in the line-up.
The shortstop in baseball is often seen as the captain of the infield, taking charge of balls hit in the air or on the ground as well as the communication among infielders. Some say it is probably the second behind catcher as the hardest position defensively to play as it requires a player’s ability to cover a lot of ground and ground balls along with covering second base and the surrounding territory.
Minnesota Twins rookie shortstop Royce Lewis, since being called up from St. Paul in May, has taken an accelerated crash course in playing the position in the majors. He was rushed into service after regular Carlos Correa suffered an injured finger. Although he has played shortstop since high school, Lewis told the MSR last week, “Yeah, it’s definitely different” in the big leagues.
“I’m adjusting to whatever adjustments have been thrown at me,” he said. “That’s why I have Buck [Byron Buxton] and Carlos and guys like that—those veteran guys and leaders that are in the clubhouse to help me through these things.”
Today’s baseball virtually demands a positional shift on every at-bat. “You’re almost playing shortstop half the time when we have a left-handed batter,” then shifting over to second base or “maybe a third baseman” when a right-handed hitter comes to bat, explained Lewis.
“But the leadership role of the shortstop is still the same,” he stressed. “You still got to go out there and control your defense and help lead the team in that way, whether it’s cutting relays or talking outs—just the basic necessities of the game.
“Carlos does a great job of that and I’m able to learn a lot from him,” said Lewis of Correa. “He’s been a real blessing and a lot of wisdom shared, which is amazing.”
Lewis is the second homegrown number-one overall pick to play for Minnesota since St. Paul’s Joe Mauer. The top overall pick in the 2017 draft, the 6-2 infielder from Aliso Viejo, Calif. has battled both a COVID-canceled season and then an injury in consecutive years to get back on the field.
“COVID and then my injury,” said the rookie, “missing really two seasons against competition and other players. That sucks. As a competitor, it’s tough to not be able to compete.
“But coming back it’s been wonderful, glorious, just to be able to let that competitive edge out each and every day and have fun doing it.”
Now in a Twins uniform, Lewis started slowly. He was batting .310 in 24 games for the Saints, but finally got his first major league hit in the fifth inning in his first start at short.
Last Friday, Lewis’ double (his first in the majors) sparked a nine-run fifth inning in a win over Cleveland. He also crushed a grand slam homer, making him the first Minnesota player to collect two extra-base hits in the same inning since 2019.
“Baseball is a tough game,” surmised Lewis. “We’re gonna go through some tough spots, and also gonna have some highs too. I’m just blessed to be in a position to be able to compete.”
Finally, he disclosed what has been the biggest difference he’s seen after moving up from minors to majors: “The food has been amazing. I think that’s the only difference that I have seen so far.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.