Twins Go With Michael Despite Injuries

MINNEAPOLIS The Twins liked Levi Michael's bat, they liked his range, they liked his speed. But the deciding factor in making the North Carolina shortstop their No. 1 pick may have been how much they liked . . .  his injury?

Yep, the 20-year-old switch-hitter was dogged for several weeks by a strained hip flexor and a balky ankle, aches that likely cost the Tar Heels' leading hitter of 2010 several hits in 2011. That explains his drop from .346 as a sophomore to .297 as a junior (though his on-base percentage is a more-than-healthy .444) as Michael played on despite the pain.

And that last part is what really caught Minnesota's eye.

"He was hurt for a month and a half, and he really grinded it out," Minnesota scouting director Deron Johnson said. "It showed the kind of makeup he has."

The Twins like the makeup, and love the versatility. Not only is he a switch-hitter, but he can play anywhere in the infield, having spent his freshman season as a second baseman, his sophomore year at third base, and his junior season at short.

"He's got really good defensive skills, lateral quickness, range in both directions. He's a plus runner, too, which (scouts) may not have seen because of the injury," Johnson said. "At the plate, he's no slap hitter. He's got some strength."

Where does he see himself playing as a pro?

"I feel more comfortable somewhere up the middle, whether it be second base or short," said Michael, whom Johnson said projects as a gap-hitting shortstop. "But wherever it fits for the organization. I'm just looking forward to playing."

It was a break-the-mold draft for the Twins, who hadn't spent their first choice on a collegiate position player since 1996, when they drafted (and lost) Travis Lee. But after watching a scramble for pitching ahead of them, the Twins, who had never drafted so late in their history, were happy to try something else.

"People think we take high-school athletes and college pitchers," Johnson said. "So we changed it up."


• Outfielder Joe Benson's strong season for Double-A New Britain was interrupted by surgery to repair a slight meniscus tear in his left knee. Benson, batting .294/.380/.489 with 23 extra-base hits in 50 games, hopes to return to the Rock Cats around the all-star break.

• Outfielder Jeremy Reed, who has appeared in 483 major league games over eight seasons, was acquired from the Brewers for cash, and assigned to Class Triple-A Rochester. Reed shores up a Red Wings roster thinned by injuries in Rochester and Minnesota, where the Twins have used 39 players already this year.