This three-game series at Target Field against the Tampa Bay Rays won’t be the first time Rocco Baldelli has faced his old cohorts. That happened nearly a month ago at Tropicana Field when the Twins took three of four after losing a 14-3 blowout in the first game of the series.
But every time Baldelli faces the Rays early in his Twins tenure will carry a lot of meaning in large part due to the familiarity he has with people at all levels of the organization — including manager Kevin Cash.
Baldelli served on Cash’s field staff prior to being hired as the Twins manager, and while he initially suggested that familiarity might not help that much between the lines, he did relent a bit from that stance.
“I might know some things about the organization or some of Kevin’s ideas or thoughts or things he believes in better than most teams,” Baldelli said. “But he also knows that I know that so you never know exactly where it ends. So who knows exactly what’s going to happen when he’s out there. There are things I know that the Rays and Kevin believe in that give them a better chance to win the game so we can probably know those things are happening.”
Ultimately, however, Baldelli said it just comes down to execution between the lines by the players.
“But ultimately it comes down to the players being able to execute whatever it is they’re trying to do. That’s what’s going to lead one team to winning the game.”
Cash and Baldelli maintain a fond relationship, with the latter going as far as saying he pulls for the former when they aren’t playing against one another.
“I think that’s very fair to say,” Baldelli said. “I think we certainly root for each other in every possible when except when we’re playing against each other. Even more than all the stuff on the field, we have a good time together.
“He called the office a little while ago and very little of it is baseball substance. It’s basically just him getting some things off his chest and laughing a little bit. We’ve had a good relationship for a long time. We know each other pretty well – better than most. It’s also tough that we don’t get to see each other or talk to each other as much as we used to so whenever we get the chance to see each other, it is fun.”
The Twins have four candidates in the first ever Google MLB All-Star Starters Election — Jorge Polanco, C.J. Cron, Nelson Cruz and Eddie Rosario. The voting begins at 11 a.m. on Wednesday and spans 28 hours, with the winners at each position named as starters in the All-Star Game in Cleveland on Tuesday, July 9.
Voting can be done on MLB.com as well as Google.
Miguel Sano held court at Cruz’s locker on Tuesday during pregame availability, chatting with the media with the jerseys of all four candidates hung up around him. Sano appears to fancy himself as the campaign manager for the four Twins — a title he takes quite seriously.
“I think right now is the time for everybody in Minnesota to start voting for those guys, because Polanco, he’s one of the guys that could start at shortstop, Nelson Cruz at DH, C.J. Cron at first base and Eddie Rosario in left field in the All-Star Game,” Sano said.
After falling short in the final vote last season, Rosario is excited about the prospect of making it to the second round of voting and ultimately playing, if not starting, this year’s All-Star Game.
“It would mean a lot, especially if I could start,” Rosario said. “It would mean a lot. I think any baseball player works for that every day to be recognized for the numbers you’re putting in.”
Rosario said his family is really excited and supportive, and will definitely be voting on his behalf when the time comes.
“Yes, all the time,” he said with a smile. “Remember, vote for me.” Rosario has to finish in the top three of outfielders to garner the start, while the other three Twins have to finish first at their respective positions.
“It means a lot,” Polanco said. “It’s a dream come true. Every player wants to be in the All-Star Game, and they want to start. It’s a dream come true for me if I start.”
Marwin Gonzalez ran on the field on Tuesday for the first time since going on the injured list with a hamstring issue on June 19. Gonzalez estimated that he ran at about 70 percent and while he felt a little tight, he said he was feeling better.
“I’ve been doing exercises and then rehab in the training room, but this is the first time that I ran,” Gonzalez said. The utility man added that it wasn’t an injury suffered at one specific moment, but something he’d felt for a while that ultimately just became unbearable during his last two games before leaving early during the marathon game against the Boston Red Sox on the last homestand.
“The last two games,” Gonzalez said about when the pain became too much to handle. “I was hoping to feel better the last game I played, but it was really bad.”
Gonzalez also said he took grounders on Tuesday and felt no ill effects.
“It felt good,” he said. I didn’t feel anything. I feel 100 percent taking ground balls. The running, I feel a little bit tight still, but nothing bad. Even though I was a little bit tight, it was 100 percent better than how it was in my last two games.”
Ehire Adrianza said he expects to be ready to go on Friday when he’s first eligible to be reinstated from the injured list. Adrianza went on the IL on June 18 with abdominal issues, but it’s not a new ailment for the infielder.
“I’ve been dealing with this since I was a child,” Adrianza said. “Problems with my [gastrointenstinal tract].” Two years ago, Adrianza said, he was diagnosed with ulcers in his stomach, and that he’ll have to most likely deal with this for as long as he lives.
Ultimately, it’ll come down to watching what he eats, which can be especially difficult when leaving the ballpark at such a late hour after playing night games.
It was also disappointing for Adrianza to hit the shelf when he was playing so well. Adrianza was hitting .271/.370/.402 when he hit the IL, and .424/.500/.545 over his last 12 games.
“Yeah, it’s tough but at the same time, I was feeling pretty weak so that’s not the way you want to play out there,” Adrianza said. “You want to help the team win. I was worried, so thank God that everything they did — the test and that — went fine. I feel much better.”
Tuesday was the first day Byron Buxton was eligible to be activated, but that did not happen and based on Baldelli’s comments doesn’t appear to be imminent, either.
“Buck’s doing good. He’s going to go hit in the cage today. We’re going to have a pretty good feel I would say within the hour about how he’s doing compared to two days ago. The way we’ve been approaching it is he’s been hitting pretty much every other day. Instead of going out there every day and pressing him into taking swings and saying ‘How does it feel today? How does it feel today?’ over and over again. We give him a day in between to make sure he can get a little progress going his way.
“I think he’s doing well; I think he’s feeling good. I think we’re at the point there are a few spots in the zone where he still feels the deep bruise and it’s still maybe bothering him a little bit. But I think he’s getting close to the point where he can go out there and face some live pitching.”
Baldelli did not rule out a possible rehab assignment for Buxton either, depending on how soon he’s activated. Buxton hasn’t played since leaving the June 14 game early after being hit by a Brad Keller pitch.
“The longer these things go, the more likely the odds just go up for needing to go out and get some at-bats,” Baldelli said. “Depending on the injury, there are certain injuries where you go out there — everything can change.”
Arraez draws manager’s praise
Infielder Luis Arraez wasn’t in the starting lineup for Tuesday’s series opener, but the manager was asked about the 22-year-old youngster who has done nothing but hit in either of his first two MLB stints this season.
In 48 plate appearances, Arraez has picked right up where he left off in the minors, hitting .436/.521/.590 with a home run and three doubles. Between Double-A Pensacola and Triple-A Rochester, Arraez has hit .344/.409/.401 in 237 plate appearances.
“Well, he’s an enjoyable guy to be around,” Baldelli said. “That started very early in spring training. It’s not just me; I think it’s the entire staff here. I think it’s even a lot of the players as well. This is a guy that can do things in the batter’s box that very few people can do. He’s kind of like a throwback type of hitter that you don’t see very often anymore.
“But the way that he gets in there and kinda crouches down and gets ready to go, and the way he competes…he doesn’t expand really with anything thrown his way. His hand-eye coordination is exceptional. He’s gone out there since the first day he signed in pro ball and he’s hit. He’s continuing to hit. I don’t think anyone is surprised to see it.”
Former Twins closer Fernando Rodney is back in the big leagues, as the Washington Nationals purchased his contract on Tuesday. Rodney was designated for assignment and subsequently released by the Oakland A’s in late May, and inked a minor-league deal with the Nationals on June 1. Rodney pitched eight innings for Triple-A Fresno — with a 4.50 ERA and 11-9 K/BB ratio — prior to his call-up. Former Rays lefty Jonny Venters was also added to the roster on Tuesday as well.
Former Twins pitcher Alex Meyer announced his retirement on his personal Instagram page on Tuesday. Meyer, 29, last pitched for the Los Angeles Angels in 2017, but had dealt with a handful of shoulder issues which ultimately led to his decision to call it a career.
Meyer’s career with the Twins was short and not particularly successful (14.21 ERA in just 6.1 MLB innings), and he’ll likely be best remembered for being the return in the Denard Span trade back on Nov. 29, 2012, but he did find some success with the Angels near the end of his career. Meyer made 13 starts for the Angels in 2017 before his initial injury, posting a 3.74 ERA with 75 strikeouts in 67.1 innings before going on the disabled list in mid-July.
Ironically enough, Meyer’s last two MLB appearances came against the Minnesota Twins and Washington Nationals — the other two organizations he played for.
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I never thought in 2017 I was throwing my last pitch, but not everything goes how we expect it to. After multiple surgeries and countless hours of rehab, the end of the road for my baseball career has come. Thank you to everyone who helped me over the years. I feel so lucky for all of the opportunities this game has brought me—all the way from my first game at North Park to my final one at Angels Stadium. I’m going to miss baseball and the relationships I made over the years, but it’s time to head home and get ready for the next chapter of my life. Thank you, again.
Notes and Quotes
- The Twins announced that they’ve signed 30 of their 41 selections from this month’s First-Year Player Draft, including 16 of their top 17 selections. The lone unsigned pick in that group is Auburn shortstop Will Holland, who is expected to sign relatively soon according to Darren Wolfson of KSTP.
- Infielder Ronald Torreyes was activated from the restricted list and assigned to High-A Fort Myers, a move that returns him to active status on the 40-man roster. To make room for Torreyes, relief pitcher Gabriel Moya was designated for assignment. The Twins now have seven days to trade, release or pass Moya through waivers. Moya dealt with shoulder tendinitis at the end of spring training, but returned to Triple-A Rochester and was hit hard in 22 innings. Moya had a 7.36 ERA with four homers allowed and a 27-13 K/BB ratio with the Red Wings, as opponents hit .303/.402/.506 against Moya at Triple-A this season. If Moya clears waivers, he’ll remain in the organization but be outrighted off the 40-man roster.
- Polanco’s 36-game on-base streak is the longest in baseball this season, and tied for the fifth-longest in Twins history. Joe Mauer (43), Bob Allison (42), Harmon Killebrew (40) and Paul Molitor (38) have longer streaks in club history.
- Baldelli on Monday’s off-day: “It was an important day for us. Stepping back into even last month, our schedule has been pretty difficult. A lot of teams have to deal with things like this as the season goes on, but again touching on it quickly, but with the five days off in the first two weeks of the season, when that happens you lose your other days off. They’re just not there. When you add doubleheaders, which we’ve had, and losing a game in Anaheim which was basically us losing another day off, you end up playing a lot of games in very few days. I think our guys definitely deserved and earned that day yesterday to put their feet up and relax a little bit. You don’t get a ton of them, and we haven’t had a ton of them lately, but I think yesterday was a good one.”
- Baldelli on Buxton’s absence from the lineup: “Well he’s definitely a guy you miss. We talk about the way he changes the game, the different things he can do that really very few other people can do. It’s real. The defensive play — that’s obvious. I think everyone knows he’s as good of a defender as there is in baseball. When he gets on the bases, obviously he changes the way the defense and the pitcher have to basically approach what they’re doing. But the types of at-bats he’s had, he’s been a very dangerous hitter for us too. Essentially a second leadoff guy at the bottom of our lineup. He’s been an offensive force down there. He’s had a tremendous first half, and I think we’re all just waiting to get him back out there.”
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