Kepler takes Mr. October's advice to heart

Kepler takes Mr. October's advice to heart

CHICAGO -- Rookie outfielder Max Kepler got an impromptu batting lesson he'll never forget during the Twins' series at Yankee Stadium last weekend.

Kepler, in his second stint with the Twins this season, had his round of batting practice prior to Friday's game interrupted by a Yankees legend who hit 563 career home runs, was elected to the Hall of Fame and goes by the nickname "Mr. October."

Reggie Jackson, now a special advisor to the Yankees, took notice of Kepler while talking with Twins manager Paul Molitor and decided to offer some advice.

"He didn't say much," said Kepler, who was raised in Germany by American-born parents and learned of Jackson's prowess from his grandfather. "I was taking BP, and I was pretty much trying to go deep at Yankee Stadium, which I think every kid wants to do ... to right field at least. He pulled me aside and introduced himself."

Jackson soon challenged the left-handed-hitting Kepler to attack different areas of the park, not just right field.

"He just told me, 'I'm 70 years old and I can do that, I can hit the ball to right field. ... Let me see you go the other way,'" Kepler said. "So the next two rounds, I was trying to go [opposite field] the whole time, and [assistant hitting coach Rudy Hernandez], who was throwing BP at the time, was just pounding me in. So it wasn't working out for me. But it was good to talk to him. It was a milestone for me, obviously."

Two days later, in the series finale, Kepler hit one of the Twins' six home runs in a 7-1 victory. It was his first hit of the series and third homer of the season.

Kepler plans to heed Jackson's advice going forward.

"I was surprised he wanted to talk to me," he said. "I think he helped me out. I have a better feel for my routine in BP now. I used to just swing the bat. Now, listening to him, I have a routine and an idea of what I want to do to get my hands going for the game."

Molitor wasn't surprised to see Jackson offer his advice to a young player, even one who plays for the opposition.

"That's so Reggie," Molitor said. "We were just sitting around, and Reggie was talking. We were having a nice conversation, and he asked me, 'Who's that kid in the cage?' And I told him. He got done [talking] and goes, 'Kepler, get over here.' So he started giving him [a talk], which was pretty fun to listen to."

Worth noting

Miguel Sano hit a home run for Triple-A Rochester on Monday, but he still needs some work before being activated from the 15-day disabled list.

"We're watching," Molitor said. "Overall, the reports are the at-bats still [have] a ways to go. That combination of recognition and rustiness still need to be addressed to some degree. I think we're open-minded about when he could return, but ... We're probably leaning toward getting him a few more at-bats in addition to [Tuesday's game]."

• The Twins carried a 5-19 record against teams from the American League Central into the opener against Chicago, including an 0-6 mark against the White Sox. That's something that has caught Molitor's attention.

"I'm thinking about some of these Central teams and how they've dominated us," he said. "We have to find a way to kind of make these games more competitive against some of these teams in our division. I hope the guys take it a little bit personal. You can only go out there and play a good game [that night], I get that, but I've got that in the back of my mind. We've got to play better against some of these teams, including the White Sox."

Brian Hedger is a contributor to MLB.com based in Chicago. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.