December 5, 2022

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Correa's exit velo rising as bat starts clicking

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ST. PETERSBURG — Carlos Correa doesn’t focus on whether or not his batted balls find the outfield grass — though racking up some base hits, even in a 6-1 loss to the Rays at Tropicana Field, is a nice bonus. All he cares about is how hard he hits the ball.

Following his first three-hit game as a Twin on Thursday, including a bases-clearing double, Correa began his postgame interview by asking a question of the media assembled around him.

“What was it, 500 miles an hour of exit? Combined, over 500 miles an hour?” he asked.

Yep, easily. (“That’s a good day,” he replied.) He didn’t quite put together another 500 mile-an-hour day on Friday, but the box score was still rosy, as two of his line drives landed for base hits, giving him his first consecutive multihit games with Minnesota following a slow start to the season.

It looks like Correa’s bat is finally starting to heat up, with five hits and four RBIs in two days — and he’s convinced that when he and the rest of the team finally sync up their success, big things are in store.

Friday wasn’t that day, though. Correa’s pair of singles headlined the meager resistance provided by the Twins’ offense against familiar foe Corey Kluber and a duo of Tampa Bay relievers, who otherwise held Minnesota completely silent in a loss that snapped the Twins’ seven-game winning streak, their longest since 2011.

“I think the timing is the biggest part of it, and I think it’s certainly coming right now,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “We’re watching it happen. I think every at-bat he has right now is … He looks fairly locked in, but we know he can get even more locked in.”

Correa was at his low point entering Wednesday’s game against the Tigers, his 0-for-10 skid having lowered his slash line to .167/.254/.250 to start his Twins tenure. But if we look at it the way Correa prefers to evaluate himself — by how hard he hits the ball — you can see that the underlying numbers show the improvement he wants.

Average exit velocity, first six games: 91.8 mph
Average exit velocity, next six games: 91.7 mph
Average exit velocity, most recent six games: 94.9 mph

After knocking four balls in excess of 100 mph on Thursday, Correa clubbed a 109.5 mph RBI single off Kluber on Friday as he registered the Twins’ first hit off the right-hander in the fourth inning.

“Definitely feel a lot more comfortable at the plate, a lot better,” Correa said. “Just got to keep building on that. Today was a tough game for all of us. We tried to battle, but it was tough.”

He and the Twins attribute those early issues almost entirely to the shortened Spring Training. Since his arrival this March, Correa has consistently described himself as a slow starter who needs the spring buildup to find his timing and feel out the strike zone. The shortened spring and his late signing have combined to push that adjustment period into the regular season, when any prolonged struggles are more magnified to the public — particularly after a hot spring in which he went 7-for-20 with three homers.

“I never had the chance for pitchers to adjust to what I was doing good, so they can attack the other zones,” Correa said. “Then, I wasn’t covering that part of the plate, and then when the season started, I was in trouble because I wasn’t covering that and I didn’t get to practice it in Spring Training.”

He’s been grinding, though, and he’s noted over the last week that his timing has felt much better and that he feels like he’s close to finally clicking at the plate. He always knew it was going to take time to find himself, and he’s taken solace in the fact that the Twins have still been winning due to the unexpected success of the starting rotation — with his customary Platinum Glove-caliber defense playing a significant role in helping his teammates achieve that success on the mound.

He’s been waiting nearly a month to show off the full superstar skillset that he hopes will lead the Twins back to the postseason. He’s been confident it will show up. He’s ready.

“The way I see it is, if I’m not performing and the team is still winning, imagine when I start performing,” Correa said. “So things are going to be a lot better, right? That’s what keeps me going. That’s what keeps me hungry. That’s what keeps making me wake up early and show up to the cage early for early work.”

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