Mother Nature has a cruel and ironic sense of humor.
While the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox had three-quarters of a four-game set turned into a winter wonderland last weekend, it’s going to be a balmy 67 degrees on Monday — just in time for the Twins to open a four-game series with the New York Yankees.
In the Bronx, as luck would have it.
Postponements mean make-up games, and make-up games mean one of two things — shoehorning the game into an otherwise tight schedule or doubleheaders.
The Seattle Mariners postponement from earlier in the week was pushed out to a mutual day off in May, and fortunately means the Twins will get just two days off in the span of eight days instead of three.
That’s not too harrowing.
The other three games with the White Sox have been scattered throughout the summer, with one coming on June 5, another on Aug. 20 and the final on Sept. 28. The first will be a doubleheader that turns a three-game set into four. The second turns a quick two-game series into a three-game, home-and-home set with Monday at Target Field and Tuesday-Wednesday on the south side of Chicago.
The September one is a split doubleheader, though that comes with expanded rosters, so it’s perhaps a bit less worrisome. It also comes with just two more games left in the season; with any luck, the Twins will have their fate decided by then.
The White Sox surely will.
On the positive side, the Twins have — to this point, anyway — managed to retain their slate of off-days in June. They don’t play a single Monday in the entire month, which for rest purposes is obviously a good thing. But regardless of what happens in the future on the weather front, the Twins are set up well for this kind of thing.
Because basically the entire starting rotation at Rochester is on the 40-man roster, and even parts of it trickle down to Chattanooga.
Paul Molitor announced on Friday that Phil Hughes will make the team’s first start from a fifth starter on Sunday in Tampa, thus ending a stretch of snow-related serendipity that allowed the Twins to skate by with a long bullpen and just four starters for even longer than originally expected.
In addition to Hughes, the Twins have Trevor May and, of course, Ervin Santana on the disabled list with both primed to make contributions at various points this season. You can throw Michael Pineda into that mix if you desire, as well.
But at Rochester alone, the Twins have Aaron Slegers, Dietrich Enns and Fernando Romero who are all on the 40-man roster and available at a moment’s notice. Felix Jorge is in that mix as well, though he’s currently on the disabled list on the Chattanooga roster. It’s unclear where and when he’ll make his season debut, but he pitched not only with the Red Wings but also the Twins last year, so he too is capable of making the jump as a 26th man or an extra arm if the team needs one for a start.
“Each of the starters in Triple-A has a chance to impact us and we feel like guys in Double-A — like Littell and Gonsalves — could also be near-term options”
At Chattanooga, both Stephen Gonsalves and Zack Littell are on the 40-man roster as starters who could make the jump, and don’t rule out someone like Kohl Stewart getting a shot as well. He’s pitching with a real chip on his shoulder after being passed up for the 40-man roster this offseason, as he’s allowed just four earned runs (3.48 ERA) with a 14-1 K/BB ratio through two starts.
As strange as it sounds, between the minors and the disabled list, the Twins are flush with arms who can help them in different ways depending on the need and the time of the year.
“We look at it similarly to the way you have here,” Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey told Zone Coverage. “I realize the focus is often on the five at the major-league level, but I”m consistently more worried about Nos. 7-9 instead of just the No. 5.
“Each of the starters in Triple-A has a chance to impact us and we feel like guys in Double-A — like Littell and Gonsalves — could also be near-term options,” Falvey continued. “I also think about guys like (Tyler) Duffey, Enns, Slegers, (Myles) Jaye and others with MLB time who could fill in a pinch in long-role situations depending upon the need.”
It may have taken a full season of roster churn — including using 36 pitchers last year, if you count Chris Gimenez — but the Twins have gotten to a place where Falvey wanted to be all along.
“We are always looking for roster flexibility while maintaining competitive depth,” Falvey said. “We’re excited about the potential for added depth when Santana and May return.”
What should be encouraging to Twins fans is that not even five years ago, some of these guys would be pressed into action with the big-league club rather than sharpening their skills down on the farm.
Keeping the roster intact while juggling 40-man roster spots once May and possible Pineda both return won’t be easy, but it sure beats the alternative.