Park closes uneven month with hard-hit HR

Park closes uneven month with hard-hit HR

MINNEAPOLIS -- When Byung Ho Park connects on a home run, he certainly doesn't get cheated.

Park hit his team-leading sixth homer of the season off right-hander Jordan Zimmermann in the Twins' 4-1 loss to the Tigers on Saturday, and the ball left the bat at 112 mph and traveled an estimated 435 feet, per Statcast™.

It marked the third-longest dinger hit by Park in 2016. His homers are averaging an impressive 428 feet this season.

"Park got ahold of one and that was good to see," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "He's starting to progress in his consistency with his at-bats. I think he's gaining confidence. He's starting to figure out how to be aggressive. When he gets a mistake, he hits them a long way. It's fun to watch his power."

It has been a learning curve for Park, who is adjusting to seeing Major League pitching after starring in the Korean Baseball Organization, where he hit a combined 105 homers over the past two seasons. Park is batting .227/.288/.561 with four doubles and eight RBIs in 19 games, but he has been better recently, as he has knocked five homers over his last 10 starts.

"During Spring Training, I told you guys I was feeling a little bit more comfortable as I got more at-bats," Park said through interpreter J.D. Kim. "But now, during the season, I'm seeing harder and better stuff from pitchers throwing 100 percent. I struggled a little bit at that, but I'm definitely getting more comfortable in the box."

Park's solo home run

This time, Park's homer came on a 1-2 slider from Zimmermann on a pitch that caught too much of the plate. It was the first homer allowed by Zimmermann this season, who is 5-0 with a 0.55 ERA.

"He was really locating his pitches and didn't leave many up in the zone, but the one that I hit was up in the zone," Park said. "I got lucky."

Park remained humble when describing his first month of the season in the Majors, as he noted it doesn't mean as much with the Twins off to a 7-17 start. He has also had a lot of trouble with runners in scoring position, going hitless in 15 at-bats.

"I was definitely fortunate enough to hit a few home runs in the first month of the season, but always what matters the most is the team wins," Park said. "Hopefully, in the next month or in the future, I can get some more RBIs with runners in scoring position."

Molitor, though, believes that will come. Park hit the ball hard with runners on base in Friday's loss, only to ground out on a ball off the bat at 112 mph. Even his final out on Saturday in the ninth inning was hard-hit -- a comebacker to closer Francisco Rodriguez at 108 mph.

"Last night, he hit the ball hard to shortstop with nothing to show for it, and today, he hit the ball hard off K-Rod in the ninth there," Molitor said. "He's making good contact at least a couple times a day, which is a good thing."

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for since 2011. 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.