Shaky defense, homers down De Vries in debut

Shaky defense, homers down De Vries in debut

Shaky defense, homers down De Vries in debut
CHICAGO -- In the end, Cole De Vries picked up the loss and allowed three home runs in his Major League debut.

Still, it wasn't an experience that he'll look back on with too much regret. Despite the Twins dropping an 11-8 slugfest to the White Sox on Thursday at wind-blown U.S. Cellular Field, the 27-year old Twins rookie from Eden Prairie, Minn., walked away with more positives to build on than negatives to stew about.

"I try to be a positive person and I don't really know how I can't look at it positively," said De Vries, who pitched into the sixth inning before being removed after allowing back-to-back homers to Paul Konerko and Alex Rios. "I went out there and competed the best I could tonight, given it was my first time and high emotions. I thought I did pretty well."

And he will get another start, according to Twins manager Ron Gardenhire.

"Sure, yeah," Gardenhire said, when asked if he'd seen enough to grant another turn in the rotation for De Vries. "[Let's] run him back out there. He was spinning the ball pretty good. He threw some great breaking balls. The inning before [he got knocked from the game], he punched out a couple guys, popped 'em up and had a great inning. The ball was still coming out of his hand real good. We like what we saw. This is a tough ballpark. You get the ball up here ... it goes."

De Vries learned that lesson the hard way. Former Twins catcher A.J. Pierzynski also took one out against him to give Chicago an early 1-0 lead in the second inning and Alejandro De Aza had another drive down the right-field line that was initially ruled a home run before being overruled by replay.

Still, De Vries only allowed three earned runs among the six scored against him and struck out four with just one walk in his five innings pitched -- including a whiff of De Aza looking in the same at-bat the home run call was overturned.

"Overall, I think there's a lot of positives and I just know that as I get more comfortable out there, I know my pitches will start coming down," said De Vries, who signed with the Twins in 2006 as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Minnesota. "That's kind of my thing. I kind of felt like my body was going a little faster than my arm, so my pitches got up. When I get a little more comfortable, that will take take care of itself."

De Vries has an arsenal of four pitches to work with, including two fastballs, a curveball and a slider -- and at times in his debut they were working to near perfection. He also struck out De Aza in his first batter faced as a Major League pitcher.

Still, it was a night for balls going over the fence -- with the Sox clubbing five and the Twins smacking three -- which is something for De Vries to file away for the future. He was asked after the game whether he knew U.S. Cellular Field had a reputation as a launching pad on windy, warm nights like this and his immediate smile foretold his answer.

"Actually, not at all, but I found out real quick that it does like to jump out," he said. "But what are you going to do about that?"

Keep the ball low in the strike zone, for starters. As pitchers on both sides found out, however, that was easier said than done.

In fact, Twins reliever Brian Duensing also struggled after coming on for De Vries in the sixth. After getting one out quickly, he gave up two hits and walked Orlando Hudson to load the bases for De Aza -- who made up for his overturned homer with his first career grand slam to give the White Sox a 10-6 lead.

"Well, I was just trying to hit the ball as hard as I can and I was trying to get a fly ball because it was bases loaded," De Aza said. "And the fly ball got big, you know."

Justin Morneau hit a pair of big ones on a three-hit, three-RBI night for the Twins. He hit one to lead off the seventh, but it wasn't nearly enough. Not even the two-run shot that he smacked in the ninth to cut the deficit to three really threatened the White Sox -- who took the three-game series against their American League Central Division rivals by winning the last two games by a combined score of 17-8.

The home runs also lifted Morneau past former Twins outfielder Torii Hunter into seventh on the club's all time list with 193 and gave him his second multi-homer game of the season.

Joe Mauer, playing DH instead of catcher, also had two hits for the Twins -- including a 420-foot blast during a four-run fifth that gave Minnesota a short-lived 5-4 lead. Brian Dozier added a two-run single in that frame, but overall the Twins just couldn't match the offensive output of the White Sox on a hitter-friendly night.

Minnesota left the bases loaded in the third and fifth innings and stranded eight runners total.

"There were a lot of balls flying everywhere, kind of what we thought beforehand when the wind was swirling around," Gardenhire said. "It turned out [to be] one of those nights where the ball was flying. You got a ball up and it went out of the ballpark. We battled through it pretty good. You score eight runs, you think you should have a chance. But they put a lot of balls in the seats on us tonight."

The White Sox also got some added help from the Twins in the field and on the basepaths. Alexi Casilla's error on a routine grounder by De Aza with one out led to three Sox runs in the third -- all unearned against De Vries -- and then Dozier was gunned out at the plate for the second out in the fifth while trying to score from first on Casilla's double to the gap in right center.

Still, the Twins finished the eight-game road trip with a 5-3 record and won the first two series against Detroit and Milwaukee -- which ought to give them some confidence when facing the Tigers for a three-game set this weekend back home at Target Field.

"[We] put some runs on the board on this trip and played some pretty good baseball teams," Gardenhire said. "We've got a long ways to come back here, but if we keep playing like that we'll be OK. I like our chances when we're swinging like that and playing the way we have on this road trip. We had some good things happen tonight. Unfortunately, we came out on the bottom of a slugfest here when the ball was flying."

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