Park steps up in first spring action

Park steps up in first spring action

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- After being designated for assignment on Feb. 3 and subsequently not getting selected on waivers, Byungho Park knows how much this spring could mean for his future.

Although Park isn't on the Twins' 40-man roster, he's getting a long look this spring to be the club's everyday designated hitter, competing with Kennys Vargas and fellow non-roster invitee Ben Paulsen. Park made a strong opening statement in Minnesota's Grapefruit League opener, a 3-1 loss to the Rays on Friday night, going 2-for-2 with a double off the wall in right field.

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"I know that these Spring Training games are very important for me," Park said through a translator. "I put a lot of work in. I'm putting a lot of effort in every time I'm in the lineup."

The results were also encouraging for another reason, as both hits came on 93- mph fastballs. Park's hard-hit single up the middle came on an inside two-seam fastball from Rays right-hander Austin Pruitt, and his double off the right-field wall came on an outside four-seamer from right-hander Jacob Faria.

"I've prepared for the fastball and focused on specific things," Park said. "It looks like it's working well. I'm very confident. I really hope my change works in this highest level of baseball."

Twins manager Paul Molitor came away impressed by Park's plate discipline, laying off inside fastballs, to get pitches to hit.

"He's a guy who is more confident and has adapted more the second time around," Molitor said. "One game isn't too much to get overly excited about, but we're going to build him up."

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.