Rocco Baldelli is navigating his first pennant race as a major league manager, and while he would have preferred to emulate the rookie season of Ron Gardenhire — whose Twins opened a double-digit lead in the standings by midseason 2002, and never let it slip under that benchmark again — he’s willing to settle for following Tom Kelly’s example.
Twice during Kelly’s first full season, the 1987 Twins took leads of 4½ games or more and appeared to be pulling away in the AL West, then fell back into ties with the dogged Oakland Athletics. Kelly’s team weathered the slumps, though, and went on to win the division by two games over the Kansas City Royals, and eventually the World Series.
Now Baldelli, having watched his team’s 11½-game lead melt away in nine weeks, is trying to keep the Twins from succumbing to Cleveland’s momentum.
But if anyone is expecting fiery speeches or solemn team meetings, they have the wrong guy.
“As of right now, I don’t see anything to address,” Baldelli said Saturday, the first time the Twins hadn’t been alone atop the AL Central since April 26. “There are a lot of positive things still going on on the field. We’ve lost a few games in a row, but if we didn’t think that was ever going to happen, we’re probably lying to ourselves. Our guys look in good shape. Everyone seems in a good frame of mind and ready to play.”
Yes, the standings have changed, Baldelli said. But changing anything else would be a mistake.
His job is “not reacting [negatively], staying consistent with whatever your messages are, whatever the energy is, whatever your routine is. And continually believing in what you’ve been preaching all year long,” Baldelli said. “We’re not a group that has a ton of team meetings. Changing your routine or the way you interact with your group is probably more of a red flag than anything else.”
After having his injured left wrist examined by a specialist in New York during Monday’s off day, Nelson Cruz will rejoin the Twins in Milwaukee and travel with the team for its six games against the Brewers and Rangers.
“Nelson spent a lot of time around the [team] when he was on the [injured list] earlier in the year. You can expect something similar,” Baldelli said of the 39-year-old slugger. “The way the clubhouse responds to him is pretty special and unique. A lot of guys draw a lot of strength from him.”
Pitchers Sam Dyson and Michael Pineda will make the trip, too, increasing the likelihood that one or both righthanders are activated before the Twins return to Target Field.
• The Twins acquired minor league outfielder Ian Miller from the Mariners for cash. Miller, 27, was batting .269 with 11 home runs and 29 stolen bases at Class AAA Tacoma.
• Class AAA Rochester pitchers Trevor Hildenberger and Stephen Gonsalves began rehab assignments in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League on Saturday. Hildenberger has missed two months because of a forearm strain, while Gonsalves has pitched only once this year due to a stress reaction in his left forearm.
• The Twins re-signed lefthander Ryan O’Rourke, who spent 2010-16 in their organization, and assigned him Rochester. O’Rourke appeared in two games for the Mets in May and didn’t allow a run, but was designated for assignment in June.