FORT MYERS, FLA. – Lefthander Martin Perez on Tuesday was ready to leave the place he is renting in Fort Myers to drive to Sarasota when the Twins called him around 10 a.m.
Because of steady rains overnight and into the morning, the Twins’ Grapefruit League game with the Orioles was canceled. Instead, Perez pointed his car toward Hammond Stadium, where he threw a five-inning simulated game in which he used 70 pitches. The Twins joked that it was a no-hitter. Mitch Garver, who caught the five-inning outing, claimed he hit three home runs. Everyone was in a jovial mood.
Then came the mystery.
Perez said he was pretending to face Cleveland hitters, working certain pitches into certain spots around the plate.
When asked if he was facing Cleveland — the Indians open the season at Target Field next week — he said:
“Maybe, yeah, because I’m going to follow [Michael] Pineda. I’ve got to be ready for after him. We’ve got a lot of days off.”
Yes, the Twins won’t need a fifth starter — presumably Perez — until April 15. They have a whopping five off days between the start of the season and then. So it makes sense that Perez would be available out of the bullpen until then.
But his answer suggested that he was following Pineda, which means that he is pitching one of the games against Cleveland and either Kyle Gibson or Jake Odorizzi is not.
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli was not ready to divulge his rotation Tuesday.
“I don’t think we need to probably announce any of that at this point,” he said. “We feel pretty good about where we sit, but we’re going to wait a little longer to go public.”
There will be clarity in the coming days. What’s known for sure is that Jose Berrios is starting Opening Day and Perez is preparing to work out of the bullpen — and he might piggyback off Pineda.
“Maybe you have to follow starters,” Perez said. “I’m not going to start any games because I’m not going to have the chance with a lot of days off. April 15 — I’m OK with that. I just want to pitch. I don’t care.”
Opening Day plans
The Twins on Tuesday announced plans for Opening Day, the day kicking off with Breakfast on the Plaza at 6 a.m., gates opening at 1 p.m. then the first pitch at 3:10 p.m.
Other highlights include:
• The first pitch thrown out by former Twins first baseman Justin Morneau.
• The national anthem performed by local artist Sean Tillman, better known as Har Mar Superstar.
• A flyover by a pair of F-16s from the Minnesota Air National Guard 148th Fighter Wing, based in Duluth.
• Lawrence Cline, 100 and a World War II veteran, will raise the American flag.
• A few thousand tickets are still available for the game.
The Twins will play host to the Pirates on Wednesday. Pineda will start for the Twins while righthander Joe Musgrove starts for Pittsburgh.
La VELLE E. NEAL III