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Twins' Cave, Austin benefited from Pedrique's guidance in minors

Minnesota Twins right fielder Jake Cave (60) celebrates with teammates after scoring during the fourth inning against the Oakland Athletics on Thursday, Aug. 23, at Target Field. Jordan Johnson / USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS—Jake Cave and Tyler Austin made a beeline for the Oakland A's dugout before batting practice this week to catch up with an old friend: A's first-base coach Al Pedrique.

The two ex-Yankees spent parts of a combined eight seasons playing for Pedrique as they climbed through the minor league system.

"Great kids," Pedrique said. "Those kids play hard. They're fun to work with and fun to watch."

Twins fans are still getting to know Cave and Austin, who have hit nine combined home runs for their new team, including several mammoth shots. Austin, who played a total of 125 games for Pedrique from 2015-17 at Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton, has some of the best raw power in the game.

"He's amazing," Pedrique said. "He can hit the ball out of the park anywhere, especially right-center. When he's right, be careful, because he can hurt you big-time in that gap."

Set to turn 27 on Sept. 6, Austin had been typecast as a platoon first baseman with the Yankees. Pedrique, however, sees more in the tank.

"He's learning to understand what type of hitter he is and he can be," Pedrique said. "I also think he can be an average first baseman. He's gotten so much better there since he moved from the outfield."

Cave, a 25-year-old outfielder, spent parts of five straight seasons playing for Pedrique, from low Class A Charleston all the way up through Triple-A.

"He's very hyper," Pedrique said. "He loves to play the game. He loves to compete. (In 2016), he was worried about not hitting enough homers. I told him, 'Take what they give you for right now. As you get older, you'll get bigger. Give yourself some time. Don't get frustrated.' "

After hitting 12 combined homers for Pedrique's teams in their first four years together, Cave broke out with 15 of his 20 homers last season at Triple-A. That was the culmination of a swing change meant to give him a better launch angle and more power.

"He was great with that," Cave said. "He kept involving me in the lineup. He would put me right in the middle of that lineup, and I started producing for that team. It was really cool to have somebody trust me like that. He was awesome. I loved being around him."

Ervin out

Right-hander Ervin Santana has been shut down because of pain in the middle finger on his throwing hard, but for now there is no talk of a follow-up surgery.

"There's enough lack of extension in that in that finger that it's concerning," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "There's still pain in that finger, but more so in the front side than where the incision is."

Twins doctors and hand specialists Thomas Varecka (Twin Cities) and Charles Melone (New York City) are "trying to figure out some options" to improve Santana's finger, Molitor said.

With a little over five weeks remaining in the season, the odds are diminishing that Santana will pitch again for the Twins this year, if ever.

"He wants to do what's best for him moving forward—for his future—and not just this year," Molitor said.

Alston factor

When A's lefty Sean Manaea threw a no-hitter in April, he received a congratulatory text from Garvin Alston, a former A's bullpen coach and minor league pitching coordinator.

This weekend the two had a chance to catch up as the A's faced Alston's Twins for the first time this year.

"He was awesome," said Manaea, who started Friday night. "He was very much a player's coach and really knew how to interact with players. It's nice seeing a friendly face and a guy who wants you to succeed. He definitely has that. He was always giving us tips. I loved every minute I had with him."

Briefly

Utility catcher Willians Astudillo was recalled from Triple-A Rochester after backup catcher Bobby Wilson was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a bone bruise in his right ankle. Astudillo has caught 39 games this season for the Red Wings, but he wasn't used behind the plate during a seven-game audition in early July. That should change as soon as Saturday.

Players Weekend jersey nicknames include "Bucko" for reliever Oliver Drake (short for "Buckaroo" as given to him by his father) and "Doc" for Molitor, coined by former Milwaukee Brewers teammate Pete Vuckovich. Reliever Taylor Rogers went with "M. Rogers" partly out of protest; full names such as Mr. Rogers were off limits.

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