Rizzotti Facing Another Roadblock

First baseman now blocked in Minnesota system





MINNEAPOLIS—Matt Rizzotti finally escaped the shadow of Ryan Howard. But he may have only switched roadblocks.

The slugging first baseman, who charged from high Class A to Triple-A in a breakout 2010 season (.343/.430/.555) for the Phillies, was liberated in March from a future of competing with Howard, the former National League MVP who is under contract until 2016. Sold to the Twins at the end of spring training, the 26-year-old infielder filled an immediate need for Triple-A Rochester.

"We had planned on Chris Parmelee playing first base at Rochester this year, but then he surprised us by making the big league club," Twins vice president for player personnel Mike Radcliff said. "We had an opening, and we've liked Matt for a long time. Heck, we've got reports on him back to his junior year in high school."

The Twins drafted Rizzotti in the 46th round in 2004, but he chose to attend Manhattan instead. The move paid off; three years later, Philadelphia drafted him in the sixth round. But he didn't really register among the Phillies' top prospects until 2010, and with Howard firmly in place above him, Rizzotti was sent back to Double-A Reading in 2011, where he hit 24 home runs.

"He's limited versatility-wise, but he's always had decent power production," Radcliff said. "He's a middle-of-the-order power guy."

Rizzotti got off to a slow start for Rochester, and had not hit a home run in his first 71 plate appearances. But Parmelee was even worse in Minnesota—.179/.250/.262 with no home runs—and on May 15, he was optioned to Rochester. And handed Rizzotti's job. The former Phillie, crowded out of what he hoped would be his first full Triple-A season, was sent back to Double-A for a third straight year, this time at New Britain.

TWIN KILLINGS

• Alex Wimmers, the Twins' first-round pick in 2010, has been diagnosed with a slight tear in the ulnar collateral ligament of his pitching elbow, but the Twins have recommended a rest-and-rehab course of treatment in hopes of avoiding surgery.

• Outfielder Joe Benson, a 2006 second-round pick who appeared in 21 major league games last September, was demoted from Rochester to New Britain after a .179/.269/.317 start in 28 games. Benson responded well to a similar demotion to high Class A in 2010.