FORT MYERS, FLA. – Could the return of the bullpen car be one answer to baseball’s pace of play problem?
The Twins are considering bringing the kitschy vehicles — staples of the game in the 1960s and ’70s — out of the garage. The Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday became the first team to announce they will use a bullpen car this season.
Twins President Dave St. Peter confirmed the club already is studying bringing similar cars to Target Field.
“It is something we have discussed and will continue to review,” he said. “The ballpark will require some modifications in order to allow easier cart ingress/egress.”
While playing at Metropolitan Stadium, the Twins used an actual automobile to transport pitchers from the bullpen, delivering the pitcher in front of the dugout. Other teams used golf carts, some modified to look like baseballs wearing giant caps. It’s not known what type of vehicle the Twins are considering.
The carts eventually were phased out by teams after most pitchers eschewed the service in favor of jogging to the mound.
Bringing bullpen cars out of retirement actually came up during discussions between the players association and Major League Baseball about shortening the time of games, but didn’t gain enough momentum.
Union chief Tony Clark, speaking to reporters last month following his annual meeting with Twins players, pointed out that bullpens, once located in most stadiums down the foul lines, have migrated in modern stadiums to beyond the outfield fences. They are farther away than ever before, so pitchers are taking longer to reach the mound.
“When you look at the amount of time that it takes on average for a pitching change and you combine that with how the game is being governed, where there are more pitching changes than ever before,” Clark said, “the combination platter leads you to wonder how you speed up a pitching change.”
• Ervin Santana was back in camp, minus the cast on his right hand that has protected the middle finger since he had surgery earlier this month. What now? “He wants to throw a bullpen [Wednesday],” said Derek Falvey, the Twins’ chief baseball officer. “We’re trying to slow him down a little.” Santana will work on strengthening his hand and eliminating any lingering soreness before throwing, something that could happen by the weekend.
• Phil Hughes will pitch live batting practice, probably on Friday, rather than make his next start, manager Paul Molitor said, so he can better develop his slider and changeup without worrying about results. “In game situations, guys get competitive sometimes and they end up trying to get outs more than [working on] their pitches,” Molitor said.
• The Twins opened minor league camp, with morning workouts going on across the complex from Hammond Stadium.
Rain is in the forecast for the first time this spring, but if the skies clear in time, Jake Odorizzi will make his second start of the spring. Veteran relievers Zach Duke and Addison Reed are also scheduled to pitch in the noon game against the Red Sox at JetBlue Stadium.