BALTIMORE -- He hasn't thrown a pitch yet, and already Liam Hendriks' second trip to Baltimore is about a million times better than his first.
The 24-year-old Aussie makes his first start of the season today against the Orioles, on Opening Day at Camden Yards. Last year, the Twins opened the season here, and Hendriks was scheduled to pitch the third game. He spent that day in the hospital instead.
"Yeah, I don't even like to think about it," Hendriks said. "It's as sick as I've ever been. I remember being in [the emergency room] with a guy who had his head bashed in at the game."
The night before the season opener, Hendriks and his fiancee had a pasta dinner at a fancy Baltimore restaurant, and the next day, he didn't feel right. At dinner after the game, he didn't eat, and back at his hotel, "I said I was going to try to lie down. As soon as I did, I had to run to the bathroom, and I was in there throwing up for about four hours."
When he was still sick around 1:30 a.m., his fiancee took him to a nearby hospital, where he spent the next three nights. "They ended up putting me in the cancer ward so my fiancee could stay with me," said Hendriks, who finally was released from the hospital and flew home a day after the Twins left town. "It was a little insane."
The culprit, Hendriks believes, was the spinach in his pasta, so he's been avoiding the vegetable this year. Today, he hopes to avoid some Orioles' bats as he fights to remain in the rotation with Scott Diamond's return looming. "I feel really good about all my pitches right now," Hendriks said. "It's as good as I've felt all spring. I'm ready."
No word yet on Cole De Vries' status; the right-hander had a bullpen session scheduled today to determine whether the pain in his forearm has dissipated enough to allow him to start on Sunday.
Opening Day festivities start around 1:30 CT today (2:05 CT first pitch), with a tribute to Earl Weaver among the highlights. The Twins will also provide the opposition for the Royals' home opener on Monday. "That's what happens when you lose," manager Ron Gardenhire joked before the game. "Hey, let's get the Twins for Opening Day!"
His lineup today includes a new shortstop, though Gardenhire said Eduardo Escobar's presence was merely an attempt to get everyone a start in the first few days, not a reflection of the fielding difficulties Pedro Florimon had the past couple of games. In addition, Ryan Doumit gets his first start as catcher, shifting Joe Mauer to DH. The lineups: