Rocco Baldelli played at Class A Bakersfield of the California League in 2002. His manager was Charlie Montoyo.
Baldelli remembers days when the temperature reached 102 degrees. Each group of batting practice would take its turn in the cage, then retreat to the cooler clubhouse. Montoyo remained on the mound, throwing to every group in the sweltering heat. Baldelli said he did it several times that summer.
Years later, they forged a close relationship while coaching on the same staff with the Rays. And now both are first-year managers: Baldelli with the Twins and Montoyo with the Blue Jays.
“Charlie’s a guy where he’s never wavered from what he’s believed in, and he works very hard and he doesn’t get down too often,” Baldelli said. “He just continues to go out there and does what he thinks is right every day. And getting a chance to watch him do that for years on end, it’s both impressive and I’d like to do that when I grow up.”
The two had a chance to catch up Monday before their teams opened a four-game series at Target Field.
“He’s like my son, but then he’s like my brother,” Montoyo, 53, said of the 37-year-old Baldelli. “We fight and then we make fun of each other. Yeah, he’s one of my best friends in baseball for sure.”
They both were coaches with Tampa Bay under Kevin Cash, who believed in a loose coaches’ room, so little was sacred and practical jokes were frequent.
Montoyo might want to tread carefully this week.
“We have nothing crazy planned yet,” Baldelli said. “But it’s a four-game stand. We could possibly see some stuff. I actually don’t have anything 100 percent locked in at the moment. So I can’t give any hints. But the big screen generally is the place you can find a lot of the stuff when it does happen.”
Garver leading off
Max Kepler was not in the starting lineup Monday, as Baldelli looks to give some of his regulars a break over the next several days. Jake Cave replaced Kepler in right field.
Catcher Mitch Garver replaced Kepler as the leadoff hitter.
“On days where we are going to give Max a day, you could move people around and change the lineup up a decent amount,” Baldelli said. “Or you could find someone that also has excellent at-bats like Mitch. He is kind of a patient guy. He’s a guy who has a pretty good approach up there and a good idea of what he’s doing. He’s also swinging the bat really well for us right now.”
Marwin Gonzalez also was not in the lineup, as Willians Astudillo started at third base.
Time to experiment
Monday’s game was the first night game of 2019 at Target Field, and it was the first of 14 games scheduled to begin at 6:40 p.m. rather than the usual 7:10, as the Twins experiment with an earlier start time during April, May and September.
“We have contemplated this for a couple of years,” Twins President Dave St. Peter said, “and a couple teams have gone to earlier starts. Maybe it takes away another hurdle for kids and families to attend games.”
The hope is that it will be more attractive to fans who make long drives during the week to attend games. And, for years, Twins officials have watched as fans with children leave around 10 p.m. regardless whether the game has ended. This increases the chances that games will end before 10 p.m.
The Twins have identified 14 games before Memorial Day and after Labor Day that will start at 6:40 p.m., most on Monday through Wednesday. The Twins polled their season-ticket holders and found they approved of 7:10 p.m. Friday starts and 6:10 p.m. Saturdays.
In honor of No. 42
Major League Baseball on Monday celebrated Jackie Robinson Day with special pregame events.
St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter threw out the first pitch, and varsity teams from Minneapolis Henry and North high schools stood on the field with the major league teams during the national anthem.