Don’t look now, but Darin Mastroianni is putting together a solid season and may have a future with the Twins. Entering tonight’s game vs. Tampa, the speedy reserve outfielder is hitting .276/.349/.408 with 13 stolen bases in 15 attempts.
A 17th round pick by Toronto in 2007, Mastroianni spent five years in the Blue Jays farm system, swiping 214 bases with an 82% success rate. That and his career minor league batting line of .279/.368/.371 suggests his success this year may be sustainable.
A victim of the Jays crowded outfield situation, Mastroianni’s only big league stint in Toronto consisted of a one-game cameo in 2011 (more on that later). He was claimed off waivers by the Twins in February.
The 26-year-old began this season at Double A New Britain, was quickly promoted to Triple A Rochester and received the big league call on May 10. Mastroianni and I discussed his eventful season prior to Friday’s game.
DZ: You’ve been here for about…
MASTROIANNI: Just about three months, three months yesterday…
DZ: Not that anyone is keeping track…
MASTROIANNI: Is today the 10th, is today August 10th?
DZ: Yeah, it is.
MASTROIANNI: Three months today!
DZ: (laughs) Ok, how’s it been for you so far?
MASTROIANNI: It’s been great, man. It’s been awesome. This is really my first experience in the big leagues and I couldn’t be any more fortunate to have it in this organization. They made the transition - it’s never easy - but easier for me. Just quality guys in the front office, the coaching staff and the clubhouse. They made the transition a lot more simple for me.
DZ: You are a guy who is known for base running, stealing - you’ve been pretty successful this year. How much of base stealing is speed and how much is technique?
MASTROIANNI: It’s a combination of both. I know a lot of guys who steal 30 bases a year who aren’t really all that - they’re fast, but they are not blazing. I know guys who can burn who can only steal 15 and get caught 10 times a year. It goes both ways. Fortunately with this team this year, I’ve got Revere and Casilla and Denard to talk to a lot. Jerry White has helped me a lot with the technique and when to go and picking he right times.
DZ: Obviously every non-pitcher hits a lot, so there are a lot of people to talk to about hitting. Is it a little more tough to find experts on base stealing?
MASTROIANNI: I think every organization has one somewhere. For us, we have one as our first base coach, who really knows a lot about base stealing and who did a lot of it during his career. Jerry has been a huge asset for me, bouncing things off of him. We talk about different times - when have I forced it, when can I force it. I feel like I’ve run a lot more in the last three months than I have in a while.
DZ: You mentioned this is your first real stint in the big leagues. You were up with Toronto for one game last year, what was that like, just kind of getting that tease?
MASTROIANNI: It was just terrible. You go up and you don’t know how long you are up there for - you play a game and get sent down the next day and don’t go up for the rest of the year. It’s kind of tough, especially when it’s your first time. You want to sit there and feel like you’ve made it and then, all of the sudden, it’s taken away. It’s part of the game, I am not saying anything bad about Toronto (or) how it happened. They needed a centerfielder and I was the guy they picked to come up there. It was like a big tease. I associated with Christmas, you see that gift under the tree, but you can’t do anything with it. This year, I’ve spent a little more time up here and it’s been quite an experience.
DZ: You are a guy who comes off the bench, you don’t get real regular playing time. What is that challenge like, just staying ready, ready to hit and being sharp?
MASTROIANNI: It took me a little while to get used to it. It’s all about finding a routine, doing the same things day-in-and-day-out to simulate the game the best you can, so when you do get in there, you are prepared. It’s something you need to adjust to, fortunately I’ve had a bunch of guys on this team, Jamie (Carroll) and Drew (Butera) who’ve served that role in the past and they’ve kind of helped me through it and gave me some pointers on how you can make sure your are prepared every time you go out there in the game or when you start. It takes a little time, but I feel like I got a pretty good handle on it and try to do the best I can when I do get out there.
DZ: They Olympics are going on right now, have you had a chance to watch much of that?
MASTROIANNI: Yep, I’ve watched quite a bit of it. We have it on everyday in the clubhouse, so we’ve gotten to see a lot of it.
DZ: What are you favorite events?
MASTROIANNI: Track and field. Anything that involves everybody running is my favorite - watching how fast everybody is and how athletic they are. It’s really pretty cool. You think you are fast and then you watch those guys run and those girls run and think, “Jeez, I wouldn’t stick with them for the first five yards.”
See more of David Zingler’s interviews with Twins players:
June 24: Ben Revere
June 19: Ryan Doumit
June 16: Brian Duensing
June 2: Brian Dozier
May 26: Josh Willingham
May 17: Denard Span
May 1: Jared Burton
April 28: Alex Burnett
April 21: Chris Parmelee
April 17: Sean Burroughs
April 13: Jeff Gray