Michael Leaves The Past Behind

Twins shortstop thrives on struggles





MINNEAPOLIS—Staying positive is the least of Levi Michael's problems. After all, not many No. 1 picks seem to relish their shortcomings the way the Fort Myers infielder does.

"Struggling can be a good thing. It shows your weaknesses and what you need to work on," Michael said. "It's helping me to get better."

Certainly the Twins expect him to get better. After drafting the North Carolina infielder with the 30th pick in 2011, the Twins debated where to start the 21-year-old's professional career. His three seasons of experience with a Tar Heels team that made a pair of College World Series appearances finally convinced Twins officials to let Michael skip Rookie ball and low Class A and go directly to the high Class Florida State League.

"We knew Fort Myers would be a big challenge for him," farm director Jim Rantz said. "But we believe he's a fighter."

He was losing the fight for a couple of months, including a disastrous May that included a .168 average and 24 strikeouts.

"There are some great pitchers down here. Seems like there's a lot of them," Michael said. "It's been tough. I gave away a lot of at-bats early, but I feel like I've made strides."

Despite the debilitating hot weather, Michael has gotten hot, too, posting a .272/.378/.345 line in his first 32 games after the all star break. That's not the production the Twins project from him yet, but his ratio of 15 walks and 17 strikeouts prove he has improved his plate discipline.

His secret? Forgetting his slow start.

"When you're struggling, you try to make adjustments pitch to pitch, and sometimes you're thinking about your swing," Michael said. "Now I focus on mechanics pregame, during batting practice. But when it's game time, I let that stuff go."

TWIN KILLINGS

• First baseman Kennys Vargas returned to action with a pair of home runs June 22, after serving a 50-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs. The 21-year-old Venezuelan's return was delayed by the rule requiring suspended players to serve their penalty with the team they were with when they tested positive. Vargas had to wait for Rookie-level Elizabethton's season to begin in June.

• Kyle Gibson's first three appearances in Gulf Coast League games went smoothly, with no lingering effects from Tommy John surgery for the 2009 first-round pick.