Alex Presley shines for Twins

Minnesota Twins center fielder Alex Presley dives and catches a fly ball hit by Houston Astros' Marwin Gonzalez during the fifth inning of a baseball game Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Minnesota Twins center fielder Alex Presley dives and catches a fly ball hit by Houston Astros’ Marwin Gonzalez during the fifth inning of a baseball game Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

By Steve Hunt
Special to the Journal

ARLINGTON, Texas – Sunday was a big day for Alex Presley, as the former Ole Miss outfielder debuted for the Twins after being traded to Minnesota on Saturday in a deal involving 2006 American League MVP Justin Morneau.

The 28-year-old outfielder led off Sunday’s series finale at AL West-leading Texas and capitalized on his opportunity, going 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored as the Twins beat the Rangers, 3-1, to take two of three in the series.

Presley was still getting acclimated to his new surroundings and meeting his new teammates just before game time. “Yeah, (the trade) was a little surprising. You hear talks about Morneau but we didn’t think anything was imminent and you don’t know if you’re involved,” he said. “I came to the field yesterday, found out and I’m here the next day.”

Presley was hitting .264 in 29 games for Pittsburgh this season, as he shuttled several times back and forth from the Pirates’ Triple-A club. In his first three games for the Twins, through Tuesday, he was hitting .357 (5 of 14) with a healthy .438 on-base percentage.

Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire has been looking for a regular leadoff man for much of this season, a role he hopes his newest outfielder can fill for the rest of 2013 and maybe beyond.

“We’re excited to get him. A lot of our kids have played against him in the minor leagues. We’ve seen him in spring training. We know he likes to move around. We know he likes to run around the bases,” Gardenhire said. “He actually ate up our Triple-A team in a series recently and our guys duly noted that, so now we’ll see how he does. It’s going to be fun to watch him go out there and play.”

Presley, who played at Ole Miss in 2004-06 and made his big-league debut with the Pirates in 2010, joins a Twins ballclub featuring Fulton native Brian Dozier, currently their starting second baseman. Dozier is someone he remembers well from those heated battles with Southern Miss during his time in Oxford.

But no matter who his new teammates are or where they are from, he knows he has a lot to offer his new employer. “I’m a guy that’s going to play hard and be scrappy. I’m just going to try to get on base and make things happen and run around the outfield,” Presley said. “I’m excited, a new opportunity, a new place. I’ve heard nothing but good things about this organization. So I’m excited to get out there and have a new start in a new city.”

Steve Hunt is a freelance writer based in Frisco, Texas.