ST. LOUIS — There were a lot of hugs and handshakes in the Twins’ clubhouse and on the field today, as a couple of special guests arrived.
Torii Hunter stopped by to greet his old teammates. He’ll see a lot of them this week, as he works as the color man on Fox Sports North’s broadcasts of both games here, and all four in Anaheim next weekend. “A road trip with my boys,” Hunter said, “just like the old days.”
Then one player and coach after another came over on the field to greet Dave Pruemer, the team’s trainer for 13 years who retired last fall to move his family back to his hometown of Teutopolis, Ill., about 70 miles from Busch Stadium.
With the greetings out of the way, the Twins, who have won three straight games, will take on a team that’s even hotter: The Cardinals, who have won five in a row, including a rain-delayed, 14-inning marathon victory that ended at 12:50 a.m. last night. The Twins’ hotel here is a block from the ballpark, so a few team employees walked over to take advantage of a rare opportunity to attend a game as fans, though none were still here when Dexter Fowler’s walk-off homer ended it.
Fernando Romero makes his second major-league start, and Paul Molitor has one request for him: “I hope he’s not thinking too much about his at-bats,” the manager said. Romero has never swung a bat as a professional, but he seems a little excited about the challenge (if a little wary of getting hit by the ball when he’s in the batting cage). He used an Eduardo Escobar model bat as he worked on his bunting before the game, and he took a couple of swings, too, one of which reached the outfield.
“If he gets three at-bats, it means he’s pitching well,” Molitor pointed out. “So hopefully he gets a chance.”
Romero will be caught by Bobby Wilson, most because the 35-year-old catcher has plenty of experience that may come in handy for a 23-year-old pitcher. Since the series consists of just tonight’s game and a noon start tomorrow, Molitor said it was always unlikely that fill-in starter Mitch Garver would catch both games, so he decided to pair Wilson with Romero, and save Garver for Jake Odorizzi’s start on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Byron Buxton ran in the outfield again today, felt only occasional discomfort in his fractured big toe, and pronounced himself just about ready to return. “I’ve gotten to the point to where I think I can tolerate it well enough to play,” said Buxton, whose last game was April 12. “We’re just taking it day by day.”
Molitor said if Buxton feels good again on Tuesday, he’ll run the bases, “another step, another hurdle we’ll have to get over before we start thinking about when he can play.” No decision has been made yet about whether to send Buxton on a new rehab assignment, but when I asked if he was coming along to Anaheim for the four-game series that begins Thursday, he quickly said, “I’m going.”
That’s not the case for Miguel Sano, out with a hamstring strain but eligible to return from the 10-day disabled list tomorrow. “I don’t think we’ll see him in Anaheim,” Molitor said.
Trevor May pitched three innings, roughly 50 pitches, without incident in extended spring training on Monday, Molitor said. His next outing, likely this weekend, will be for Class A Fort Myers, the start of a rehab assignment for the righthander who is recovering from elbow surgery.
Here are the lineups for tonight’s game at Busch Stadium: