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Luke Raley Ends 2019 On A High Note

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When the Twins needed another outfielder to fill an Arizona Fall League vacancy 10 days before the AFL season opened, they chose 25-year-old Luke Raley, a 2016 seventh-round pick by the Dodgers.

The assignment was meant as a reward, the team said, that Raley had earned by . . . enduring the most frustrating summer of his professional career at Triple-A Rochester?

"That might sound funny, I know,” chief baseball officer Derek Falvey said of Raley, whose hoped-for breakout season was scuttled by a serious ankle injury in mid-May that eventually required surgery and a long rehab stint. "People think when (players) get hurt, you’re just gone for two months, three months, like you’re sitting around not doing anything. They don’t see the work that you have to put in to come back.”

Raley, acquired from the Dodgers at the 2018 trade deadline for Brian Dozier, had already been knocked out of an AFL assignment in 2018 by a shoulder injury.

The Twins loved Raley's plate discipline—he owns a career .361 on-base percentage—and believe he will gradually add power, Falvey said. Raley had seven multi-hit games in his last 11 starts in the International League before suffering the ankle injury.

Suddenly, his Triple-A season was over. But Raley, who was drafted out of Division II Lake Erie (Ohio), proved that he wasn’t done.

"The reality is, Luke probably worked harder than anybody in our system all summer,” Falvey said of the 6-foot-3, 220-pound outfielder/first baseman who spent his summer at the team’s Fort Myers, Fla., spring headquarters. "He worked every day to get himself healthy again and ready to play. That’s worth rewarding.”

By the time the AFL season ended, it was the Twins who were being rewarded.

After an understandably slow start, Raley closed the AFL season with an 8-for-17 burst for Salt River, with three homers and eight RBIs in his final five games. He batted .308 against lefthanders over a month of games and set himself up for another invitation to big league camp next spring.

TWIN KILLINGS

— The Twins fired Triple-A Rochester manager Joel Skinner after two seasons. Skinner went 134-146, including 70-70 in 2019, after bring brought into the organization in 2018. Also fired were Rochester pitching coach Stu Cliburn, who had been in the Twins’ organization for 28 seasons, Rochester hitting coach Javier Valentin, and Rookie-level Gulf Coast League hitting coach Caleb Abney.

— A September stint in the big league bullpen does not necessarily mean top pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol will remain in that role next year, Falvey said. "We haven’t determined the final course on Brusdar yet, what his ultimate role is,” Falvey said of the 21-year-old righthander, whose fastball sometimes topped 100 mph with the Twins.

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