Struggling Rosario misses the start

Free-swinging left fielder gets in late, can't make key defensive play

Struggling Rosario misses the start

KANSAS CITY -- Twins left fielder Eddie Rosario was a free-swinger as a rookie last year, but still had a solid first season, hitting .267/.289/.459 with 13 homers, 18 doubles and 15 triples in 122 games.

He drew 15 walks compared to 118 strikeouts, however, and the Twins are hoping he'll be able to improve his plate discipline, as his .13 walk-to-strikeout ratio would have ranked as the worst rate in the Majors if he qualified for the batting title, per Fangraphs.com.

But Rosario struggled in the first series of the year against the Orioles, going 2-for-12 with six strikeouts, and sat out in favor of Danny Santana in the series opener against the Royals on Friday.

"Rosie had a really good spring ... like a lot of our guys, he's an aggressive hitter, but he's been a little over-the-top," Twins manager Paul Molitor said before Friday night's 4-3 loss -- though Rosario did get in as a left fielder in the eighth inning, when he dove but failed to make the play on a Salvador Perez triple.

"It's tough to corral him because we know he can hit bad balls at times as well as good pitches, too. But he's been forcing it a little more than normal to try to get going and try to help the club."

Like the Orioles did against Miguel Sano, Baltimore also they used elevated fastballs to its advantage against Rosario, according to Pitch F/X data. The Orioles beat him throwing the ball up and out of the zone, as he swung and missed at seven of the nine pitches Baltimore pitchers threw above the strike zone, leading to five of his six strikeouts.

Rosario, 24, went 2-for-33 with a homer against pitches above the zone last year, but hit .283 vs. all other pitch locations. So Molitor is hoping he'll be able to lay off those pitches going forward and be more selective at the plate. Rosario swung at 47.2 percent of all pitches out of the zone last year, compared to the league average of 30.9 percent. Through the small sample size of three games, Rosario swung at 63.3 percent of pitches out of the zone.

Molitor said there's no reason to panic over Rosario's tough series, and expects him to play him in left field on Saturday.

"He'll be down today [Friday], but he'll be back in there tomorrow," Molitor said.

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.