Jake Odorizzi faced the Pirates in Pittsburgh back on April 4, giving up three runs over 4 1/3 innings. When he faces them for a second time tonight, the Pirates might seem more familiar than his own team.
Eight of Pittsburgh’s nine hitters tonight played in that April game, and the ninth, Jordy Mercer, was available on the bench. But the Twins? That team is just a long-ago memory. Only three of tonight’s starters — Eddie Rosario, Miguel Sano and Max Kepler — played that day in Pittsburgh, and four of tonight’s starters weren’t even on the Twins’ roster. Matter of fact, two of Paul Molitor’s three bench players weren’t on that team, and five of the eight members of the bullpen.
That’s baseball in the era of roster turnover; these days, it’s the Pirates who are unusual. Pittsburgh has used 42 players this season, and while that may sound like a lot, actually only the Rockies and Astros have used fewer. The Twins have issued 49 different uniforms this season, more than any year of their history except last summer, when they used 52. But seven teams have used more than Minnesota this season.
Yet for all of those players, Molitor isn’t certain, now that Fernando Rodney has been traded to Oakland, that he has a closer on the roster. Trevor Hildenberger has plenty of minor-league experience at the role, and closed out Saturday’s win in Detroit, although not without giving up a couple of runs.
“You have ideas of how you’d like it to go,” Molitor said. “You kind of have it constructed, but it’s subject to change as we play.”
Also subject to change: The outfielders’ positions. Molitor said he wants to make sure all his outfielders can play center field if necessary, and wants Jake Cave, whose starts have all been in center field since June 28, to play a corner position occasionally. So he shuffled the positions tonight, with Cave inhabiting left field.
The Twins have won the first game of their last three homestands, and Odorizzi is 8-4 with a 3.21 ERA in 22 career starts against National League teams. Then again, the Twins are 6-12 in interleague play this year, and Odorizzi has collected one win since May 8.
Here are tonight’s lineups for the first of a brief two-game series:
G. Polanco RF
J. Polanco SS