Gilberto Celestino understands his benching; Twins hope to use it as learning opportunity
Celestino said he understood manager Rocco Baldelli’s decision to remove him and that he believed Baldelli has good intentions to help him become a better player and person.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Over the course of his four seasons as manager of the Minnesota Twins, Rocco Baldelli has been quick to defend his players and not call them out publicly for mental lapses, gaffes and the like, preferring to handle those matters internally.
So when Baldelli removed Gilberto Celestino early from Tuesday’s game, it seemed clear the manager was hoping to send a message to the 23-year-old outfielder.
“I learned a lot of things about myself for putting (in) better work and effort into the game, (respecting) my teammates and respecting the game,” Celestino said.
In the second inning, Celestino had broken toward home when Luis Arraez lifted a fly ball to left. By the time he got back to third base, he was unable to tag up and score. Though he eventually scored on a Carlos Correa single, it was one of many recent baserunning mistakes by Celestino. Two innings later, after a pitch that he believed was ball four was called a strike, Celestino grounded out and then made an exceptionally slow walk back toward the dugout.
Baldelli removed him after that, replacing him in center field with Mark Contreras.
“He’s had a few mental errors in the games recently and we wanted to make those adjustments,” Baldelli said. “There was another one last night. Can’t say I was pleased with that, but sometimes those are part of young players especially learning and trial and error and figuring things out and making it work, but I think more the distraction of the last at-bat that he had was really kind of what made the point that it was the time to do it and the right thing to do.”
Celestino said he understood Baldelli’s decision to remove him and that he believed Baldelli has good intentions to help him become a better player and person.
“I understood our conversation,” Celestino said. “He’s trying to allow me to grow in the game. Bad plays are going to happen. Sometimes I’m going to make errors and bad decisions, but I shouldn’t be showing that raw emotion. Control that so I can respect my teammates and the game overall.”
Celestino addressed his teammates pregame — he said he particularly felt bad for Arraez, who is competing for a batting title and was charged with an out for what could have been a sacrifice fly — and was back in the lineup Wednesday.
“I do believe that this is an opportunity to kind of move past this period of time, this challenging period of time for him and get into a better place mentally to go play good baseball. This might actually free him up a little bit to kind of face some of these challenges head on, acknowledge that what he did out there was wrong, and some of that’s execution on the mental side of the game, but ultimately you want to just be there for your teammates and you don’t want to be a distraction to anything going on, and I think he’s going to note that.”
Sho time at Target Field
It’s Sho Time at Target Field.
For the first time, the Los Angeles Angels’ two-way sensation is set to pitch at Target Field, scheduled to start against the Twins on Friday night. Ohtani has pitched against the Twins just once in his career — that came in 2018 in Anaheim — giving up a run in 6⅓ innings.
Though he’s never pitched there, Ohtani has had plenty of success at Target Field. In six games against the Twins, he’s hit .417 with a 1.232 OPS and a pair of home runs.
Ohtani, last year’s unanimous American League MVP, has put together another MVP-worthy season this year. On the mound, he has a 2.43 earned-run average in 25 starts, striking out a league-leading 11.9 batters per nine innings, and at the plate, he had hit 34 home runs with a .891 OPS entering Wednesday.
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