MINNEAPOLIS—The Twins' roster board had a gaping vacancy as spring training approached, a blank space where a Double-A center fielder should have been listed. Minnesota had experienced a lot of turnover at the position during the winter, beginning at the very top—trades that sent away both major league center fielders Denard Span and Ben Revere. While reshuffling the remaining players as the organization projected its rosters, it became apparent they were going to be an outfielder short.
Enter Antoan Richardson.
"We needed a player, he needed a job. That was about as far as it went at the time," Twins farm director Mike Radcliff said. "But you never know what a guy is going to do with an opportunity."
Richardson, the Twins' final pre-camp signing of the spring, has done plenty with his. An eight-year pro who had been released by the Giants, Braves and Orioles the past three years, Richardson could have been a mere place-holder, winding down his career at his fourth different Double-A stop. Instead, he played his way to a promotion in a little over a month.
"He's turned out to be a match," Radcliff said. "He's done more than we expected."
A native Bahamian who was drafted four times—out of high school, junior college and Vanderbilt, once as high as the 13th round—Richardson finally signed with the Giants as a 35th-round pick in 2005.
He got the Twins' attention by hitting .336/.456/.403 in 119 at-bats with Double-A New Britain, the sixth time in his nine minor league seasons that his OBP has reached .398 or higher. He was promoted to Triple-A Rochester in mid-May and kept getting on base, drawing 21 walks in his first 20 games while hitting .299/.472/.403 in 67 at-bats.
With 295 career stolen bases, and a .402 career OBP, Richardson stands out, especially since Minnesota leadoff hitters had been a .188/.233/.229 disaster in the season's first two months. At 29 and standing only 5-foot-8, he's no longterm prospect, but "things happen sometimes," Radcliff said. "We're looking for guys who can grind out at-bats, take some pitches, steal some bases. So I'd just say: You never know."
• Rochester catcher Drew Butera had a setback in his recovery from a broken hand, but hoped to be playing in games by early June.
• Outfielder Joe Benson, a second-round pick in 2006 who was batting .192/.256/.285 with one home run in 42 games at Rochester, was claimed off waivers by Texas. Benson immediately hit home runs in each of his first two games for Double-A Frisco.