ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. – The Twins have played 14 games. Some teams have played 20.
It’s time to play catch-up.
After a run of postponements at Target Field and a special two-game series in San Juan bookended by off days, the Twins opened a three-game series at Tropicana Field on Friday with an 8-7 loss in 10 innings against the Rays. It was the first of 19 consecutive days they will play.
“It’s probably as strange of a start to a season that I can recall,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said, “which spans a few years.”
Tired of looking out at tarp-covered fields, the Twins hope they can return to normalcy. They went 8-6 in their first 14 games, so it hasn’t thrown them completely off their game. But managers such as Molitor like it when their players can fall into a routine. Mother Nature has ruined pregame work, in that regard, for the Twins and some other teams — such as their opponents in Puerto Rico, the Indians.
The Indians had two games rained out against Toronto last weekend.
“You come out of spring training, where everything is controlled and you play every day and everyone gets their at-bats,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said Wednesday in San Juan. “All of sudden you get to April, and these things happen. You do the best you can.
“Later on, in July and August, you’ll welcome a rainout. Right now, you need the repetition.”
Was the lack of consistent batting practice why the Twins scored a total of three runs in two games in Puerto Rico? It is why Logan Morrison was batting .068 heading into Friday, when he blasted his first homer as a Twin in the second inning against the Rays? It’s hard to determine.
But the Twins hope a return to routine will help those who haven’t been sharp.
“It’s been a very, very unique first couple weeks of the season, when you mix in everything that has happened,” Twins second baseman Brian Dozier said, “but this game is all about ad-libbing.”
LaMarre a threat
Outfielder Ryan LaMarre and his .583 batting average were on the bench Friday, but he could be in the starting lineup Saturday when the Twins face Rays lefthander Blake Snell.
He went 3-for-4 on Wednesday after he replaced an injured Max Kepler in the ninth inning, driving in the winning run in the 16th in a 2-1 victory over Cleveland. After making the team in spring training, the righthanded-hitting LaMarre is showing he might be more than the 25th man on the roster. He can play all three outfield positions, so he’s an option when the Twins face lefthanders such as Snell.
“He’s a nice guy to have around,” Molitor said. “Just trying to find a way to get him some more at-bats.”
Kepler back, but in CF
Kepler felt something in his right knee while chasing a fly ball Wednesday in San Juan. so he pulled up, let the ball fall in for a hit and left the game.
On Friday, Kepler tested the knee, felt fine, then walked up to Molitor and asked to play.
Kepler was back in the lineup — and back in center field in place of the injured Byron Buxton (10-day disabled list because of migraines). Eddie Rosario and LaMarre also can play center, but Molitor has used only Kepler there so far.
“We are going on what we feel is the best positioning of the guys we play,” Molitor said. “As far as matchups and tendencies and where balls might go and where we might want to be the most protected.”
After playing games in Puerto Rico this week, Major League Baseball is open to having another series there in 2020.
Miguel Sano wants to know how his homeland, the Dominican Republic, can get in on the fun.
“I want to see that,” Sano said, “because the little kids can come out and see ballplayers from different countries. When we were signing autographs for the kids, I told them to watch Eddie Rosario, Jose Berrios, Joe Mauer, Brian Dozier, me, Francisco Lindor, everybody.”