Daniel Palka didn’t have time to be disappointed when the Twins designated him for assignment in November — because he had no idea it had happened.
Phone service was spotty in Venezuela where Palka was playing winter ball and it was the White Sox who eventually informed the 26-year-old that they had claimed him off waivers.
“I found out from them and it was a great day,” Palka said before the Sox faced the Twins on Wednesday night at Guaranteed Rate Field. “It was great for me to become the player I am with the Twins with the help from certain coaches they have but at that point, I was in a good enough position to create my own destiny.”
That destiny not only landed him with the Sox, but as the cleanup hitter in their lineup when they faced Palka’s former organization Wednesday.
“It’s definitely surreal,” Palka said. “You have all your hopes and aspirations but you don’t know what’s going to happen. But it happened.”
It took a while as Palka failed to impress Sox hierarchy enough in spring training to land a roster spot but he eventually got the call to the big-leagues April 24 when Avisail Garcia was placed on the disabled list. On Wednesday, Garcia hit behind Palka in the heart of the order.
Since his recall, Palka has flashed the kind of raw power that can keep a player in the lineup. His quick hands and strength have placed him among the leaders in baseball in exit velocity. Palka has the fifth-fastest exit velocity on a ball hit in the majors this season when he ripped a double off the Twins’ Fernando Romero on June 6 that came off the bat at 118.4 mph.
“I have no idea where it comes from, it just comes,” Palka said of his bat speed. “I just want to be consistent with at bats and just produce, whether it’s RBIs or scoring runs. If I can do that more than the average guy is doing, then that’s going to keep me around.”
Entering Wednesday’s game, Palka was slashing .242/.286/.455 with seven home runs and 23 RBIs.
“He’s got a lightning-quick bat,” Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “He can put the ball out of the ballpark as easily as anybody. He’s learning the major-league game is a little bit different than coning up through the minor-leagues but he’s got certainly a skillset. He’s learning (and) he’s adjusting. He knows that pitchers are adjusting to him now and I think he’s got the mindset and the wherewithal to continue to make adjustments and hopefully find a base of consistency that will allow him to remain here for as long as he can.”
Palka said he wasn’t using the start against his former organization as motivation in the final two games of the series.
“No, they know what kind of player I am now and they knew what I was then,” Palka said. “I have nothing to prove, nothing to lay on the line for them. There are a couple of guys over there that really helped me excel this offseason and I’m thankful for that. Other than that, it’s all love and competition.”