Kepler looking to seize opportunity with Twins

Club's No. 2 prospect arrives from Triple-A with Santana's injury

Kepler looking to seize opportunity with Twins

KANSAS CITY -- Twins outfielder Max Kepler was lying in bed at 11 p.m. ET when the phone rang. He had been trying to get to bed early with Triple-A Rochester's home opener set for Sunday, but the phone call told him there was a change of plans -- he was getting promoted to the big leagues after utility man Danny Santana was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a right hamstring strain.

Kepler, ranked as the Twins' No. 2 prospect and No. 43 overall by MLBPipeline.com, packed his things in a hurry, got as much sleep as he could and caught a 6 a.m. flight to join the Twins in time for their 4-3 loss in 10 innings against the Royals on Sunday. Kepler entered the game as a defensive replacement in the seventh after Miguel Sano was ejected following his strikeout in the top of the frame.

Kepler drew a walk in his lone plate appearance and made an impressive running catch in right in the ninth inning to rob Kendrys Morales of extra bases, but it went as a game-tying sacrifice fly.

"It's unfortunate what happened to Danny and I feel sorry for him, but I'm glad I got the call," Kepler said. "I'm going to do my best to do what I can up here. It caught me a little off-guard yesterday because it's the beginning of the season."

Kepler, 23, is expected to see action at all three outfield spots, but manager Paul Molitor said he doesn't expect Kepler to get regular playing time over starting outfielders Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton and Sano.

"We're going to try to get an opportunity to get a little bit of playing time for him, but in reality, he'll potentially be a defensive replacement," Molitor said. "He's a good baserunner. Just trying to find the right time to give him an opportunity to contribute. But there's no question I'll be using him late in games for defensive situations."

Kepler is coming off a breakout season that saw him win Southern League MVP honors after hitting .322/.416/.531 with nine homers, 32 doubles, 13 triples and 18 stolen bases with Double-A Chattanooga. He was one of the final cuts in Spring Training, and was sent to Rochester where he went 1-for-6 with two RBIs in his first two career games at Triple-A.

The Berlin, Germany native, who signed for a then European-record $800,000 bonus in 2009, is up in the Majors for a second time. He was a September callup last year, playing in three games, and going 1-for-7 at the plate.

"Max didn't get a lot of playing time last September," Molitor said. "He had a nice spring when we had him in camp. He's a guy that some people this winter thought we could go to if Byron's situation didn't work out. He was here last year and he was obviously closer to being a Major League player, and now with Santana's injury he's up here."

Molitor said he didn't have a number in mind of how many games Kepler will play a week, but Kepler said he's open to any role.

"It's an honor," Kepler said. "It makes me feel very confident about myself. I'm going to do what I can to help this team get wins."

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.