MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Twins still have the worst record in the American League. Still in last place in their division, 12 games below the .500 mark. Still missing most of their stars to injury.
Yet the energy has returned to their clubhouse. They've won nine of their last 11 games to cut the deficit in the AL Central from 16½ games to nine for a team with a history of second-half comebacks.
One of the biggest sparks has come from the smallest guy on the roster, 5-foot-9 rookie Ben Revere. The former first-round draft pick out of Lexington Catholic has contributed speed on the base paths, clutch hitting and strong defense in the outfield.
He made the play of the weekend in Saturday's win over the Rangers, racing right and extending his 170-pound body horizontally above the grass to make a diving, eyes-closed catch of a line drive in the gap.
"I think we've seen it numerous times since he's been up," right-hander Scott Baker told MLB.com. "He'll run through a wall for you, and you appreciate the effort. He makes a lot of great plays out there."
Revere's second stint with the Twins matches the stretch exactly over which they've won these nine of 11. After they fell 20 games under .500 by losing on the first day of June, Revere arrived and has batted .292 (14-for-48) with nine runs scored, four RBI and three stolen bases.
"It's been great to contribute, with this team," Revere said. "Right now, we've got so many guys hurt. Just imagine when these guys get back what we can do."
Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire even dropped Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett's name in comparison when discussing Revere's impact.
"He's not afraid to take a little criticism, but it doesn't affect the way he likes to get after it," Gardenhire said. "He doesn't back away from anything, which is really something that you need in this game, because you're going to have some of those issues as a young player."
Though Revere has a below-average throwing arm and little power-hitting potential, both traits that Puckett carried, he has the same type of attitude and charisma.
"By no means am I comparing him to like a Kirby Puckett as a player yet, but that smile: He's got that smile when he comes in, and he's happy to be here," Gardenhire said.