Twins’ Royce Lewis shows his versatility — at a cost

Royce Lewis as a Saints player (l) and a Twins player
Photos by Charles Hallman

Sports Odds & Ends

Royce Lewis made a lot of firsts in his first year in the big leagues. The Minnesota Twins’ top prospect, after an 11-game stint with the big club last month, was the favorite subject of some local media and fans who felt he should not have been sent back to Triple-A St. Paul.

“I think it’s really cool to hear that stuff,” Lewis said after this reporter relayed that information to him while talking in front of the Saints’ dugout. The plan for the former No. 1 top pick was to play other positions besides his natural shortstop.  

“I think my natural position is a baseball player,” he said. “I love the game and I’ll play wherever I need to be. But if it was up to me, I’d love to play short.”

As a result, during his 10-game return to St. Paul (May 19-28), Lewis played at short (four games), two games at third, two games in left field, a game in centerfield, and designated hitter (one game). The 22-year-old is forecasted as the Twins’ shortstop of the future and played there as a fill-in for the regular Carlos Correa, who was injured. He left a positive impression on players and fans alike.

Lewis might be the first Black baseball player in recent history whose demotion drew the ire of media and fans, who loudly disagreed with the Twins’ decision.

“It just means I made an impact on some people, and that’s my whole purpose in life, just having fun and making an impact,” said the Twins/Saints player without a hint of disappointment. “I learned so much… I’ve always learned each and every day something new.  There’s something that you can always learn or learn not to do, but there’s so much I learned up there in those 10, 11 days.”

Lewis said he knew his time hasn’t come yet: “It’s hard to beat out someone that’s making $35 million,” he said of Correa, who signed with Minnesota last winter as a free agent. “I was just kind of filling in for the moment.”

We also talked about the 2022 experimental rules that are in the minor leagues, using them as guinea pigs to see if the rules could be utilized in the majors one day: larger bases (from 15 inches to 18 inches square), automated ball-strike (ABS or ‘robo-umps’), and expanded pitch clock. The pitch timer means batters are required to be ready to hit and pitchers ready to pitch within an allotted time.

The pitch clock especially bothers Lewis, he admitted. “Man, it’s tough. I will say it’s really tough to adjust to it. You literally have five seconds to get in the [batter’s] box. I don’t think that’s right, because the pitchers have a full 15 seconds to get on the mound, get their sign and throw.

“I think even the umpires don’t really like it,” said Lewis. “I just played a different game growing up [in California]… I’m learning how to deal with all of it.”

Two days after Lewis spoke with us in St. Paul, the player was recalled by the Twins and played centerfield for the first time in the majors. As he went to catch his fourth fly ball chance, Lewis crashed into the wall, fell to the ground, but held on to the ball for the out in the third inning against Kansas City.

Unfortunately, he got injured on the play. He is now on the IL with a right knee bone bruise.