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Big Leagues Beckon For Stephen Gonsalves



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Stephen Gonsalves (Photo by Mike Janes) Stephen Gonsalves (Photo by Mike Janes)[/caption]

MINNEAPOLIS—The high Class A Florida State League season was five batters old in 2016 when lefthander Stephen Gonsalves gave up his first home run. That was actually an improvement over his 2015 debut, when he surrendered his first homer to the third batter he faced.

But the Twins don’t mind because the 22-year-old Gonsalves has a healthy reaction to the sudden setbacks: He simply stops allowing them.

"It’s news when someone tags him deep. He goes weeks without (allowing) a home run,” vice president for player personnel Mike Radcliff said. "If you watch him pitch, you can see why. His ball just gets in on hitters. Nobody can square him up.”

The 2013 fourth-round pick out of a San Diego high school has started 67 games in his four-year career and allowed just nine home runs. That’s a microscopic rate of 0.2 per nine innings.

After Bradenton outfielder Jordan Luplow connected in Fort Myers’ opener in 2016, Gonsalves gave up just two more homers all year. He closed the season at Double-A Chattanooga without allowing a long ball in his final 11 starts, a streak of 255 batters.

The lack of home runs wasn’t all the lanky, 6-foot-5 lefty was doing right. After July 1, Gonsalves recorded an 0.96 ERA and earned the organization’s minor league pitcher of the year award. Not bad for a guy whose fastball the Twins rate as only average.

"This guy is all about deception,” Radcliff said. "He had 10 strikeouts per nine (innings), which is awfully impressive for a guy who doesn’t blow it by you.

"Don’t get me wrong—he’s not helpless. He sits 91-93 (mph). He just knows what he’s doing. He’s got a changeup and he knows how to use it.”

Gonsalves used his change to limit hitters to just 43 hits in 74 innings after being promoted to the Southern League in June. His career opponent average is .195.

"You just don’t see him give up solid contact,” Radcliff said. "This is a big year in his development, because the big leagues beckon.”

TWIN KILLINGS

The Twins signed 31-year-old third baseman Matt Hague to a minor league deal after he spent 2016 in Japan, where he hit .231/.339/.346 in 31 games for Hanshin. He won the MVP award in the Triple-A International League in 2015.

Veteran middle infielders Leonardo Reginatto and Tommy Field also signed minor league deals.

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— Phil Miller covers the Twins for the Minneapolis Star Tribune

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