Twins’ Arraez shows his smarts on the basepaths

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Luis Arraez doesn't really have the speed necessary to steal a lot of bases. But he's got another quality that comes in handy, his manager said: sneakiness.

Arraez was standing on second base during the third inning on Sunday, having looped a single into left field — his 200th career hit — and moved up on a wild pitch. With Trevor Larnach at the plate, Kansas City's infield defense shifted far to the right, leaving third baseman Hunter Dozier the only fielder on the left side, standing roughly halfway between the bases.

Arraez tried to look inconspicuous, all while keeping his eye on Dozier. And when the Royal looked away between pitches, Arraez saw his chance. He sprinted toward third base, easily beating Dozier to the bag for his first steal of the season.

"It's probably a combination of paying attention, field awareness, and also being a little sneaky. Because if you're not, you can have all the field awareness in the world, but if you're making a spectacle of what you're doing out there, you're not going to get away with something like that," Rocco Baldelli said. "So it was a very heads-up play by Luis, and something he was looking for and was able to take advantage of. Very nice."

The Twins' staff had uncovered the possibility before the game and briefed the players about it. But to actually put that scouting report into action was satisfying, Baldelli said. Larnach singled, so Arraez may have scored anyway, but there was something more fun about getting to just jog home from third.

"Those opportunities, you don't get them very often," he said with a smile. "So when you do get them, you have to make the most out of it."

Arraez made the most out of all of his opportunities on Sunday. Trying to regain his form after missing half of June with a shoulder injury, he had only two hits in his last 20 at-bats, his contributions conspicuously absent during the Twins' five-game losing streak. But three singles on Sunday resulted in three runs scored.

"My shoulder is now 100 percent. I feel really good," Arraez said. "If my shoulder feels good, I can hit the ball to left field."

Glove swap

Jorge Alcala failed an umpire's inspection on Sunday, but fortunately for the Twins, it had nothing to do with sticky substances.

When the righthander relieved Kenta Maeda in the seventh inning, home plate umpire Rob Drake stopped him. Alcala was using a new glove, a gray one that Drake believed violated Rule 3.07 (a): "The pitcher's glove may not, exclusive of piping, be white, gray, nor in the judgement of an umpire, distracting in any manner."

Alcala took his glove to the dugout and returned with a red one that met Drake's approval.

Baby steps

Miguel Sano fell behind 0-2 in the first inning but drew a walk. He fell behind 1-2 in the fourth but walked again. A groundout and a flyout made it an 0-for-2 day for the Twins slugger, but for the third time in his last five starts, he didn't strike out.

That may not sound like much, but Sano has gone whiffless in a full game only eight times all season.

"He's always been a reasonably patient hitter. So he can draw a walk and make a pitcher work and for plenty of the time, not expand the [strike] zone," Baldelli said. "Making the pitcher come to you and taking your walks, hitting a few balls hard, that can be the beginning of something."

Injury update

Nelson Cruz was scratched from the lineup shortly before game time because of a stiff neck, the same soreness that's bothered him since he slept on it awkwardly in Texas two weeks ago.

One day after straining his right hamstring, third baseman Josh Donaldson was out of the lineup, but "that was my decision," Baldelli said. "He's already thinking about how he can get on the field [Monday] and take some swings and test it out, so that's a very good sign."

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