FORT MYERS, FLA. – The temperature on Opening Day at Target Field could hover near the freezing mark, but the Twins can’t get on a plane to the Twin Cities fast enough as pitchers continue to drop by the wayside with aching body parts.
On Friday, righthander Cole De Vries left his start after three innings because of what was described as mild right forearm tightness. He left Hammond Stadium before meeting with reporters, so there is no sense of how bad he really feels. The Twins will wait until Saturday to see how De Vries, from Eden Prairie, is doing before they map a plan of action for the starting rotation.
The injury came on a day in which righthander Alex Burnett was claimed off waivers by the Toronto Blue Jays, and three days after would-be starter Liam Hendriks suffered a bruised right hand when it was struck by a line drive.
The injury also comes after reliever Tim Wood reported a mild rotator cuff strain. He remains sidelined.
And World Baseball Classic hero Samuel Deduno, another candidate for the rotation, remains sidelined because of a strained left groin.
The Twins were comfortable with what they considered starting pitching depth. Now they have a dearth of healthy starters.
Pitching coach Rick Anderson was at the minor league complex watching Anthony Swarzak throw when De Vries completed his third no-hit inning and walked into the dugout.
“He came to me and said he had a little tightness,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Right forearm tightness, and we’ll see [Saturday] how he is. I asked him if it was cramping, if it was barking. He said no, a little tightness. And the trainers took him in.
“It didn’t sound like a big deal, but he had to come out of the game. We’ll know more tomorrow.”
De Vries walked one batter and struck out one on Friday as he lowered his spring training ERA to 0.53. He allowed four hits in 17 innings, backing up comments made earlier in camp that a spot in the rotation was his to lose.
“He had a nice spring,” Anderson said. “He pitched well throughout.”
De Vries was expected to throw around 80 pitches Friday but finished with 32. The Twins had him scheduled to start next Saturday at Baltimore.
With Deduno out and righthander Kyle Gibson needing time to develop, righthander P.J. Walters could be the only alternative if the Twins need to push De Vries back a few days. Walters, who posted a 2.08 ERA in six outings before being cut from camp, is being stretched out to start at the minor league camp.
Not everyone in camp wanted to see Burnett get cut. He was off the mark this spring, posting a 7.56 ERA— but he has a career 6.67 ERA in spring training games. And Anderson admitted that Burnett made progress in recent outings.
But Burnett was optioned to Rochester on Wednesday. When the Twins needed to make room for outfielder Wilkin Ramirez on the 40-man roster, they tried to get Burnett though outright waivers. That’s when the NL East-contending Blue Jays nabbed him.
“We like Burnie an awful lot,” Gardenhire said. “We like his arm. He didn’t have a good spring, misfiring a little bit. He had a couple good outings here toward the end, and you hate to lose a good arm like that. A really good guy. We’re going to miss him.”
The Twins will attempt to make it through the final day of spring training without losing a player.
“We gotta play [Saturday] too,” Gardenhire said. “That’s the key, getting through spring training.”