NEW YORK – Luis Arraez, Marwin Gonzalez, Max Kepler and Ehire Adrianza were among the Twins’ injury concerns as the team worked to finalize its roster for the American League Division Series. The Twins deliberated Thursday night, then agreed to wait until Friday morning, check on their injured players, then make their decision.
“There were a lot of important calls made to our medical staff [Friday] morning to make sure that what held true yesterday was holding through this morning,” Twins General Manager Thad Levine said, “and once we were given a green light on that, that’s when pencil became pen.”
All four players were good to go, and the Twins, who had a versatile roster at their disposal for most of the regular season, has that pretty much intact for the ALDS.
Not only did Arraez recover from a Grade 1 ankle sprain suffered last weekend, the lefthanded hitting second baseman he was in the starting lineup Friday with lefthander James Paxton on the mound for the Yankees..
“He responded really well,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He responded well to initial treatments. He went from not being weight-bearing on the first day to essentially walking around without a limp within a couple of days, and another day or two after that, running. You’re looking at it, and you’re going, well, I would say the odds probably aren’t likely right now that he’s going to be ready to go, but we’ll see. We’ll wait and see.”
Arraez was 1-for-3 with a double, grounded into a double play and didn’t quite get to a popup that fell for a hit as the Twins lost 10-4.
Aside from waiting on Arraez, it looks like the Twins didn’t play favorites in one case but might have granted a veteran’s exemption in another.
Despite being a fan and clubhouse favorite, Willians Astudillo did not make the Division Series roster.
Despite pitching poorly down the stretch while battling ulcerative colitis, veteran righthander Kyle Gibson was included. He pitched an inning in relief Friday, walking the bases loaded and giving up a three-run double.
And despite being in the rotation most of the season, going 10-7 and being lefthanded, Martin Perez found himself off the roster.
“Martin has been extremely important for us this year,” Baldelli said. “He’s taken the ball. He’s put us in spots to win games from April until now, and having to have that conversation with him wasn’t fun in any way.
“He’s been dominant against lefthanded hitters, and we’re facing — in a situation where you’re in a series against one team, you’re going to do everything you can to match up with that team as best you can, and because of that, this team, the Yankees here are about as heavy of a righthanded-hitting group as you’re going to find. Because of that, we opted to not carry him.”
The Yankees have only two lefthanded-hitting regulars, Brett Gardner and Didi Gregorius.
But the Twins did keep rookie lefthander Devin Smeltzer on the roster. It didn’t hurt that Smeltzer limited New York to one run over five innings of relief during a July 24 game at Target Field.
“That was an enormous moment, that series was exceptionally combative and he was able to toe the rubber and give us a number of innings,” Levine said. “So I think that definitely factored into that decision.”
That also allowed the Twins go with 12 pitchers. They had contemplated going with 13, but with so many players just coming back from injury, they felt it was important to have some cover on the bench.
That bench consisted of Adrianza, catcher Jason Castro, second baseman Jonathan Schoop and outfielder Jake Cave. Cave can play all three outfield spots and got in instead of LaMonte Wade Jr.
“We effectively decided to go with 13 position players over 13 pitchers in part because we studied the past 10 years of ALDS and NLDS rosters and that seemed to be the prevailing decision,” Levine said. “We also said we would have a little more support built into this roster in the event that any of those players who are coming back from injuries maybe can’t play five consecutive games, or if they can play five consecutive games, then they are not playing nine innings in each of those games.”