8/23: Gibson vs. Sanchez, #OldFriend and Injury Updates and Potential Rain in the Forecast

Gibson looks to build on his nine-inning complete game against the Braves last time out.

It’s overcast, breezy and warm as the Minnesota Twins prepare to open a three-game series against the Detroit Tigers at Target Field. It’s righty Kyle Gibson going for the Twins against righty Anibal Sanchez for the Tigers as we get the shortest homestand of the season at just three games underway. The shortness of the series makes it worth wondering if players should even bother unpacking before heading back out on the road to face Toronto and Cleveland.

A reminder on the whiteboard outside of the clubhouse implored players to remember their passports on the trip. Good tip.

“You gotta unpack your bags man,” Ervin Santana told me about how he’ll handle the ultra-short homestand. Santana won’t pitch in the Tigers series, but seems likely to pitch Saturday in Toronto against Marcus Stroman. The Twins lineup card for Tuesday’s game didn’t list starting pitchers past this series, and manager Paul Molitor conceded there was some discussion about moving guys around following the off day on Monday. Ultimately though, he said, the rotation will almost certainly stay in the same order.

Perhaps it would have made some sense to give Hector Santiago a bit of a breather? Right now he’s slated to pitch Friday in Toronto against former Twins lefty Francisco Liriano — a fellow trade-deadline acquisition. By traditional and sabermetric measures, the Jays have one of the finest offenses in baseball this year. They’re seventh in MLB in runs scored, and sixth in team wRC+.

And to say things haven’t gone well for Santiago since joining the Twins would be an understatement as well; he’s got a 10.89 ERA through four starts while allowing opposing batters to hit an astonishing .372/.396/.744 against him. On the bright side, he’s walked just three batters in 19 innings as a Twin.

Back to Santana for a second: Saturday’s start would wrap an interesting three-game stretch for him, in which he’d started against two former teams (Braves and Royals) followed by the team that reportedly was hottest in pursuit of him at the trade deadline (Blue Jays). Baseball is a funny game sometimes.

The radar makes it appear like a big rain cell will miss downtown Minneapolis, but some of the secondary stuff could hit after the game starts. There’s only a 15 percent chance of precipitation at 7:00 p.m., but it’s 85 percent at 8:00 and 90 percent at 9:00. We could be in for a long night.  

Old Friend Updates

Former Twins outfielder Oswaldo Arcia was claimed off waivers by the Florida Marlins. He’ll likely get some playing time sharing right field with Ichiro Suzuki as the Fish look to patch things together with Giancarlo Stanton laid up for the rest of the season.

Alex Meyer — who was part of the Santiago trade — has gotten back into game action with three appearances at Rookie Level AZL Angels. In 5.1 innings, Meyer has allowed just one earned run with six hits and a 12-1 K/BB ratio. According to Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register, the next step for Meyer is to join Class-A Inland Empire over the weekend before sending him to Triple-A. The hope and plan is to get Meyer back to the big leagues in September, maybe as a starter, Fletcher writes.

Here’s how the Twins line up today:

The Twins face Sanchez for the second time this season, but the 15th time in his career overall. Sanchez faced the Twins at Comerica Park on July 19, taking the loss after allowing three earned runs in six innings with 10 strikeouts and two walks. That appearance lowered his season ERA to 6.60, but also started a relatively solid stretch he’s been on in the meantime. Including that start, Sanchez has allowed four or fewer earned runs in five of his last six starts, and three or fewer five times. The elephant in the room is that he allowed eight earned runs in his penultimate start, as the excellent Rangers offense beat him up a bit 11 days ago.

Sanchez’ repertoire consists of a 90-91 mph four-seamer that he throws most often (36.5 percent) and from there he really mixes it up. The Fangraphs PITCHf/x algorithm has him throwing six different pitches at least 6.5 percent of the time, as it appears that Sanchez has looked to go the route of crafty righty as the results elude him. It hasn’t been pretty this season (5.94 ERA/5.06 FIP), but when he gets in a groove, his splitter is absolutely filthy (21.7 percent whiff rate).

Going for the Twins is Gibson, who’ll look to build off the second complete game of his big league career — and the first of the nine-inning variety — as he helped cap a two-game sweep of the Braves at Turner Field. Gibson looked solid against the Braves but wasn’t necessarily spectacular, throwing 115 pitches while generating 13 swinging strikes with six strikeouts and three walks. It was an atypical outing for Gibson, who induced more fly balls (16) than grounders (11).

It’ll be interesting to see how Gibson responds to having thrown that many pitches. It was the first time Gibson had thrown over 110 pitches this season, and the second-most pitches in a start in his career (117 at Target Field against Kansas City on June 10, 2015). Gibson has endured a relatively rough August overall (6.08 ERA), as even with the complete game figured in opposing batters have hit a robust .343/.404/.556 against him this month. That’s a .959 OPS against — roughly equal to Cubs superstar Kris Bryant has done this season (.958 OPS).   

Injury Updates

Trevor May said he threw from flat ground up to a distance of 90 feet on Monday and he came out of it feeling good. There’s no established, certain timeline for his return but he’s hoping to get back on a mound in early September and return with perhaps a couple weeks left in the season. He said that not being out on the field playing is the absolute worst thing for him, and he’s worked on some mechanical changes to help him moving forward, including shortening up his stride a little bit more to help take some of the stress off his back during his delivery.

“I’m just trying to stay within all the mechanical changes we made last time when I was on the DL and go from there,” May said. “I think the extended rest, kind of taking it a little bit slower has helped a lot. I haven’t felt anything in almost a week.”

Molitor said he saw Phil Hughes (shoulder, rib) and Glen Perkins (shoulder) at the stadium working through various portions of their rehab plans, and that both players were moving around well. He also added that he didn’t have an exact update on when Buddy Boshers (elbow) or Tommy Milone (biceps) projected to return to the field. Molitor also added that he suspects Miguel Sano (elbow) could return to third base against soon. He wanted Sano to go through a full workout at third base coming off the off day.

Molitor said Sano could get back into the lineup at third base as soon as Wednesday. Sano has played third base just once since doing so on Aug. 7 in St. Petersburg against the Rays.

Molitor also added that Adalberto Mejia — who made a brief cameo in the Royals series — will probably make a couple more starts at Triple-A Rochester before being shut down for the season at his innings cap. Mejia is at 127.1 innings between the minors and majors this year, and has only thrown more than 100 innings twice — in 2014 and 2012.

Notes & Quotes

  • Kurt Suzuki enters play on a nine-game hitting streak, and has two career 10-game hitting streaks but never anything longer. He’s not in the lineup, however.
  • Molitor turned 60 on Monday. In his final MLB game in 1998, the opposing starter was current New York Mets righty Bartolo Colon, a fact Molitor readily remembered when prodded about the subject on Tuesday afternoon. He also said he thought he remembered facing reliever Doug Jones in his final MLB plate appearance — which was accurate. Molitor singled up the middle to move Matt Lawton to second base in the eighth inning for his final MLB hit, No. 3,319 of his Hall of Fame career.
  • Three Twins prospects made the Appalachian League (advanced rookie ball) All Star team: 2016 first-round pick outfielder Alex Kirilloff, Lewin Diaz (at DH) and Patrick McGuff (RP). Kirilloff was named Appalachian League Player of the Year after hitting .332/.359/.472 in 48 games as an 18-year-old. At that age, he’s two-and-a-half years younger than his average peer. That’s quite impressive.  
  • May on his continuing recovery through his workouts: “Honestly, it feels like I’ve been doing a lot strength work on the area — the hips, lower back and the core. So like anything, it feels like it’s being worked. There’s no shooting pain or inflammation.”
  • May on if the primary issue is from the back itself, or otherwise: “The surrounding area. Judging from what I’ve heard from several doctors looking at me is that pain comes from some inflammation kind of in the joints in the back. So that’s why we said it was joint inflammation, but we think we’ve discovered that it’s not the cause, but rather the symptom.”
  • May on mechanical changes that could have led to the issues: “I think that changing my mechanics going into the bullpen — throwing harder and not really knowing how that would affect my body — changed my point of torque where the energy transfers from the lower body to my upper body and raised it up the back a little bit. Most pitchers have it in their hips. That’s why it’s tight hips all the time. I’ve always thrown with my hips, I guess was the torque point. Extending my stride out a foot or so — or whatever it was — raised it up a little bit, and all the muscles around it compensated and tightened up a lot and tried to protect it, which lowered mobility and is what kept that inflammation in there. That’s why it was recurring.”
  • May on the previous mechanical changes, and if they worked: “I think the mechanical changes I made last time were helping, I just think it’s just a perfect storm of pitching a lot and pitching on a day where I was very tired. I threw a lot of pitches, and my body naturally fell back into the ones I’d been doing for the last year. That’s why I felt like my back was a lot more sore than it had been, because I had put a lot more stress on a point that was getting too much stress.”
  • Molitor on the rarely-seen three-day homestand: “They’re not too often. We’ve had a really good schedule this year. I have no complaints about it. No real long homestands or road trips. Most of the time we’ve been home for a week; this is one of those exceptions. We made that short trip out to California which I think was our only three-game road trip, and we had the four-game trip to Texas before the break. It’s been a good mix this year. It’s a little strange to come home with an off day, then to play a couple and get ready to get back on the road again, but for the most part I think we’ve been dealt a pretty good hand as far as schedule.”
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Gibson looks to build on his nine-inning complete game against the Braves last time out.

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