Let’s play two! It’s warm and sunny as the Minnesota Twins are preparing to take on the Cleveland Indians in a doubleheader at Target Field. Neither team took on-field batting practice — I’m told this is not uncommon for double dips — but plenty of cage work was done as the Twins look to get back to even in this four-game series with first place in the AL Central at stake.
Neither team is starting their top guns the rest of the way in the series, as the Twins won’t have Ervin Santana or Jose Berrios going until the Chicago White Sox come to town, while Carlos Carrasco started Friday night for the Indians, with Corey Kluber missing this series after starting on Thursday.
This first game of the day pits lefty Adam Wilk against lefty Ryan Merritt. Wilk is best known for making the emergency start for the Mets this year when Matt Harvey was suspended, and hasn’t put together a particularly strong body of work in 37 career big league innings (6.57 ERA, 7.44 FIP) since his debut in 2011 with the Tigers. Essentially, the Twins didn’t have much in the way of options for this start, as the Triple-A starting pitcher cupboard is rather bare, and Wilk has some big-league experience. Wilk sits in the high-80s with his fastball, and will frequently go to a change and curve in addition to throwing a few cutter/slider hybrids. The odds are fairly good he’ll be on the move after the game, but we’ll keep you updated as soon as we know something.
That wouldn’t be the only move for the Twins today. Wilk had to be called up to the active roster, and in fact was added to the 40-man spot vacated by outrighting Chris Heston to Triple-A Rochester. Heston just pitched on Tuesday night for the Red Wings. Wilk took the spot of Ryan Pressly, who was sent back to Rochester. The 26th man for the doubleheader is Alex Wimmers, who can be used in either — or both — games but will almost certainly be sent back to Rochester after the game.
Don’t be surprised if both teams make moves between the games.
Merritt is better known for his gutsy performance against the Toronto Blue Jays in last year’s ALCS. Merritt, who had thrown just 11 big-league innings to that point, tossed 4.1 shutout innings in the decisive Game 5 win at Rogers Centre. Merritt got 13 outs from 14 batters, and allowed just two runners to reach as he effectively kept a tremendous Blue Jays offense at bay before Terry Francona turned to the powerful Cleveland bullpen to close out a 3-0 win.
This will be his first big-league appearance this year. He had a 3.96 ERA in 72.2 innings (12 games, 11 starts) with Triple-A coming into Saturday.
Like Wilk, Merritt doesn’t throw particularly hard. Merritt was in the high-80s with his fastball in his short big-league stint last year, and mixed in a lot of changeups in the 80-81 range with a slider. He also dabbles with a curve and a cutter, and has to keep batters off balance by giving them a number of pitches to be mindful of.
We’ll have notes on Game 2 starters Adalberto Mejia and Mike Clevinger after Game 1.
Here’s how the Twins are lining up in Game 1:
— Brandon Warne (@Brandon_Warne) June 17, 2017
Here’s how the Indians will counter:
Game 1 Tribe 9:
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) June 17, 2017
- Former Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe was traded — for cash — from the Oakland A’s to the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday. Plouffe, who was designated for assignment on Thursday, will be joining a Rays team that is pretty stacked in the position he plays. Evan Longoria isn’t having the best of seasons (.255/.320/.417) but is signed through 2022 and is an icon down there. Over at first, the Rays have a resurrected Logan Morrison, who has 19 home runs and is hitting a robust .243/.350/.554. The Twins saw first hand how dangerous Morrison was last month at Target Field. At DH for the Rays has mostly been Corey Dickerson, who is having an amazing season of his own. C-DICK has a slash line of .327/.364/.591, which probably means Plouffe will be relegated to pinch-hit duties and some spot starts against lefties, against whom Morrison is hitting just .186/.290/.373.
- Left-handed reliever Mason Melotakis has been promoted from Double-A Chattanooga to Triple-A Rochester. Melotakis, who is on the 40-man roster and thus could find his way to Target Field in the near future, turns 26 at the end of the month and has posted terrific numbers with the Lookouts: 2.42 ERA in 26 innings, 31-9 K/BB ratio and 0.92 WHIP. He’s also looked like more than a situational lefty, as he’s held right-handed hitters to an OPS of .510. Lefties have just a .620 mark as well. Melotakis has been especially good so far in June, as he’s held opposing hitters to just a .160/.250/.320 line with 12 strikeouts in seven innings.
- Hector Santiago threw a bullpen today and appeared to be upbeat as he walked back to the dugout with pitching coach Neil Allen and bullpen coach Eddie Guardado. We’ll have an update on his status once we get one.
- This marks the Twins’ third doubleheader of the season. The Twins also have doubleheaders scheduled for July 1 in Kansas City and Aug. 21 in Chicago.
- The Twins are hitting .322 on this current homestand with 6.8 runs per game. However, pitchers also have a 7.00 ERA (9.55 for starters, 3.00 for relievers).
- The Twins are 2-5 against Cleveland this year, with both wins coming at Progressive Field.
- The Twins are 2-3 in their last five games, 5-5 in their last 10, 8-7 over the last 15 and 9-11 over the last 20.
- Eduardo Escobar is 10 for his last 14, and is 18-for-31 over his last eight games. His 18 hits since June 4 are tied for the sixth-most in the AL, according to the game notes.