For the record, Trevor Hildenberger is absolutely ready to start a game if Paul Molitor ever decides to experiment. “I’ve said it before: I’m ready to pitch from inning 1 to 20,” the righthander said. “I’m up for whatever he wants.”
Were he on Tampa Bay, he might get his chance. The Rays started veteran reliever Sergio Romo on Saturday and Sunday against the Angels, but only to face the top of the order. Romo pitched to three batters Saturday, striking them all out, and six Sunday, each time being relieved by a pitcher more accustomed to starting. The idea is to have a reliever used to high-leverage situations face the best hitters in the opposing lineup, so any hitters that the “starter” faces three times won’t be the other team’s best hitters.
The idea mostly worked — Romo didn’t allow a run either day, though the Rays only split the two games — and it was the dominant topic of conversation among Twins relievers Monday, probably like all over bullpens around MLB.
“It’s a really interesting idea, because the stats say the first inning is where the most runs are scored, and the Angels have a very heavily righthanded lineup,” Hildenberger said. “I can see the logic behind it. It’s really new, so I can’t say whether I’d like it or not. I’d like to know how it worked in practice, and how Romo and the rest of the bullpen felt about it.”
Here’s how Molitor felt about it: He’s intrigued by the idea, but unlikely to emulate it.
“It’s a little bit experimental, trying to get a righthander through the first part of the Angels lineup, and maybe get a little more length from whoever came in after that. They’re creative down there,” Molitor said. “Over time, if other people try it and start getting some information and track records, it [might] prove to be fruitful. … But I would try to find a way to play from the lead if I could. Put my best guys out there.”
Ron Gardenhire was in the visitor’s clubhouse Monday, but another Gardenhire still manages for the Twins. Ron’s son Toby Gardenhire is in charge of Class A Cedar Rapids, where Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff, the team’s past two first-round picks, are assigned for the moment.
“I watch his games on the internet. I check his scores, see how he’s doing. We talk once a week,” Ron Gardenhire said. What kind of manager is Toby? “I hope he doesn’t take after me,” his father said. “Stay in the game and he’ll be fine. He’s already been thrown out once, and I told him, ‘Knock it off.’ ”
• Miguel Sano served as the designated hitter for Class AAA Rochester in the Red Wings’ game at Lehigh Valley on Monday, going 1-for-4 in a 6-2 loss. He will play third base on Tuesday and Wednesday. And then?
“We haven’t made any decisions about [his] return,” Molitor said of Sano, who has been out since April 27 with a strained hamstring. “We’re going to take the information as it comes in the next couple of days.”
That could mean Sano rejoins the Twins this weekend in Seattle. “The news on the leg has been good,” Molitor said. “He was going to get out before the game to do a little extra baserunning, because he hasn’t been on base a ton yet.”
• Ervin Santana was supposed to pitch in a game for the first time this year on Monday, but rain in Fort Myers, Fla., cancelled the extended spring training session. So the Twins have changed, and perhaps accelerated, their all-star righthander’s rehab schedule: He will fly to Chattanooga, Tenn., on Tuesday and start for the Class AA Lookouts against Montgomery on Wednesday.
• After staying home all weekend to allow his concussion-like symptoms to subside, first baseman Joe Mauer returned to Target Field on Monday for treatment on his sore neck and another couple of tests. Has his sensitivity to light, which returned late last week, and balance issues gone away? “He’s doing a little better,” Molitor said.