Suspended Polanco speaks to teammates
Shortstop Jorge Polanco stood in front of his teammates on Wednesday and offered a heartfelt apology after being slapped with a 80-game suspension for testing positive for stanozolol.
Polanco, who maintains he unknowingly used the drug, acknowledged letting his team down, and his teammates spoke of their support for him while he serves his penalty.
“It’s a tough situation,” righthander Kyle Gibson said. “It feels bad to be in this situation and he knows that doesn’t put anyone else in a good situation, but he was remorseful and said, ‘Hey, I have to be responsible for what I put in my body.’ ”
Polanco worked out with the team before Wednesday’s game but is not allowed to play in major league spring training games. The club is looking into sending Polanco to minor league spring training games starting Thursday, but those teams are getting ready for their seasons while he will be ineligible.
Twins manager Paul Molitor would not comment on Polanco’s speech to the team but said he thinks Polanco is handling the ordeal well, “based on the brief interaction I’ve had with him.”
The Twins learned of the suspension on Sunday, with players not finding out until after their game against Philadelphia. With a road game on Monday and a scheduled off day on Tuesday, Wednesday was the first time the club was together since the announcement, and the first time Polanco could address his teammates.
The club will move forward, with Eduardo Escobar getting most of the time at short in Polanco’s absence. But Polanco made sure he explained himself, as well as he could, to his teammates on Wednesday.
“It says a lot to get up in front of a big league clubhouse and not just address people but address them with authority and conviction and standing tall,” second baseman Brian Dozier said. “We appreciate that.”
When asked how Polanco’s message was received, Dozier said: “We just embraced him with love. We all make mistakes.”
Rotation decision Thursday?
Molitor said he hopes to announce his Opening Day starter on Thursday. At this point, it looks like Jake Odorizzi will get the nod.
The Twins plan to start Odorizzi in a minor league game on Saturday, putting him on line to start the opener in Baltimore in one week. He would be the sixth different Opening Day starter over the past seven seasons.
Jose Berrios could be lined up to pitch one of the games in Puerto Rico on April 17 and 18 in front of his local supporters.
Molitor also hopes to decide on a four- or five-man rotation, perhaps based on how Phil Hughes pitches on Thursday.
“We’ll be able to finalize how it is going to look, hopefully by [Thursday],” Molitor said.
• Even after the Twins finalize their 25-man roster, Molitor plans on bringing several extra players, many of them pitchers, to Washington for the final exhibition game Tuesday against the Nationals.
• Because of offseason construction projects — the face-lift of the Metropolitan Club and name change to Bat & Barrell and the expansion of the concourse near Gates 29 and 34 — the official capacity of Target Field has changed to 38,649, down from 38,885.
Hughes will make his final start of spring training on Thursday as the Twins play host to the Yankees (noon, ESPN2). Lefthander Jordan Montgomery will start for New York.
LA VELLE E. NEAL III