Byung Ho Park hits slam for 1st spring HR, Twins beat Rays
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. (AP) Korean slugger Byung Ho Park hit a grand slam for his first spring training homer, helping the Minnesota Twins beat the Tampa Bay Rays 5-4 on Sunday.
Park hit a towering shot to left field in the first inning off Jake Odorizzi after the Rays starter walked a pair of batters with two outs and shortstop Tim Beckham's fielding error loaded the bases.
''He put a nice swing on a fastball. He hit it so high and really got it well, but I wasn't sure it was going out,'' Twins manager Paul Molitor said, noting the wind was blowing in before the game. ''I saw some balls get knocked down in batting practice, so I wasn't sure. It shows you a little bit of the strength that he has.''
The 29-year-old native of South Korea signed with the Twins as a free agent in December after spending the past nine seasons with the LG Twins and Nexen Heroes of the Korean Baseball Organization.
Park hit 173 homers and drove in 492 runs over the last four seasons with Nexen. He led the KBO with 53 homers, 377 total bases and a league-record 146 RBIs in 2015.
''It's got to be a good feeling for him to get that first one out of the way,'' Molitor said.
Park, who started at first base, said he felt at home in the field as well as at the plate.
''It was nothing new to me. I've been playing first base almost all my career,'' Park, who was 1 for 8 with three strikeouts this spring before Sunday, said through a translator. ''I was feeling comfortable out there. I was trying to pay attention to our dugout and try to get some signs or signals from our coaching staff, but that was it.''
Molitor said he's encouraged by the progress Park has made defensively since the start of camp, noting he's been open to suggestions from coaches.
''Most things that have been said have been put into practice rather quickly,'' Molitor said, ''which is a good sign.''
Twins: Kyle Gibson pitched two scoreless innings, allowing two hits and striking out one. Glen Perkins worked one inning, yielding Desmond Jennings' third-inning sacrifice fly.
Rays: Odorizzi only needed eight pitches to get through the only inning he worked in his spring debut last week. He threw 42 Sunday in 1 1-3 innings. Park's grand slam was the lone hit off the right-hander.
''After the error was committed, I'd walked enough people so I was just throwing all fast balls. A here-it-is, hit-it type of thing and he just did,'' Odorizzi said. ''I'm not too worried about it. I got my pitches in. Everything felt good coming out, just a little bit up in the zone.''
With the exception of OF Steven Souza Jr., who has yet to play this spring because of a left intercostal strain, the Rays are fairly healthy. Souza took batting practice Sunday after hitting in the cage and shagging fly balls in the outfield the previous day.
INTERESTING, BUT MEANINGLESS:
The Twins won a spring training exhibition against Tampa Bay for the first time since March 23, 2013. They went 0-5 against the Rays in 2015 and 0-4 two years ago. This was the first three meetings between the teams this spring.
Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria had his first two hits this spring, a single off Gibson and double off Perkins.
Twins: Remain on the road against Baltimore, with right-hander Phil Hughes getting the start.
Rays: Left-hander Matt Moore makes his second spring start on the road against Boston on Monday. Right-handed reliever Steve Geltz is among the other pitchers scheduled to work.