Paul Molitor summed up the Twins' plans to open the season at home next March in four words.
"It's all about hope," the manager said.
Major League Baseball released the 2019 schedule Wednesday, and it includes some history for the Twins. On March 28, 30 and 31, the Twins and Cleveland Indians will play — they hope — the first games over held outdoors in Minnesota in March.
The early home opener is a side effect of the NCAA basketball Final Four coming to U.S. Bank Stadium a week later, an event that will occupy nearly all available hotel rooms, just as the Super Bowl did last February. The Twins didn't want to wait until the season was two weeks old to play a home game, so the solution was a three-game series in March. The team then departs on a road trip to Kansas City, Philadelphia and New York (to play the Mets), while basketball occupies Minneapolis with the semifinals on April 6 and the final on April 8.
"We don't seem to get a lot of west or south games early," Molitor said. "Ever."
But Twins President Dave St. Peter pointed out on Twitter that the weather might be better than fans expect.
"High temps in Twin Cities on March 28 over the past three years — 52 in '18; 64 in '17 and 59 in '16," he tweeted. On the other hand, the Twins' home opener April 5 this year was played in 38-degree temperatures, and three games in mid-April were postponed because of a blizzard.
"It's not easy playing in the cold. Hard to hit, hard to field," third baseman Miguel Sano said. "But we play when they tell us."
The Twins' interleague games next season are mostly against the NL East, with the Brewers visiting on May 27-28, followed by the Mets on July 16-17, the Braves on Aug. 5-7 and the Nationals from Sept. 10-12. The Twins will travel to Milwaukee, Philadelphia, New York and Miami.
The Twins will also change starting times in 2019, playing weekday night games in April, May and September at 6:40 p.m. instead of 7:10 p.m. starts.
The complete schedule is here.
The Major League Baseball season opens in Tokyo on March 20-21 with a series between Seattle and Oakland.
The only time the Twins have played a March home games was indoors, March 31, 2008 at the Metrodome, against the Angels. Five inches of snow fell the next day.
Michael Pineda will make two more starts for Class AAA Rochester, Molitor said, tentatively scheduled for Sunday and Aug. 31. The second start, in which Pineda would be extended to perhaps 75 pitches, falls on the final weekend of the International League season, so his next step likely would be to join the Twins.
In what capacity? Derek Falvey, the Twins' chief baseball officer, said in January that "I don't anticipate he'd be a starting option this year for us at any point," suggesting that Pineda likely would come out of the bullpen for an inning or two at a time.
But Pineda's comeback from elbow surgery has gone smoother than anticipated.
"I would not be opposed to having him start a game," Molitor said. "I don't think we're going to try to get him too extended here. I don't think there's a lot of purpose in that. But if he proves he can go out there and throw 75 pitches in an outing, we can live with that as far as what's good for him and what might be good for us."
Reports on the 29-year-old Pineda's Tuesday start, in which he allowed one run, two hits and two walks over four innings, were positive, Molitor said. His fastball touched 94 miles per hour, and "his changeup has been real good, the slider is there. He's been using all his pitches."
• Utility infielder Taylor Motter, who went 1-for-19 in nine games with the Twins in June and July, has been released by Rochester, the Twins announced.