FORT MYERS, FLA. – Luis Arraez played third base Sunday. Max Kepler was in center field. Ehire Adrianza handled first.
The Twins’ emphasis on versatility hasn’t diminished in Rocco Baldelli’s second season as manager.
“You never know what’s going to happen, and to have guys ready and available and prepared to go over there, it makes sense,” Baldelli said after the Twins’ 7-6 loss to the Red Sox at JetBlue Park. “Our guys do play around the field and are up for absolutely anything.”
Well, there are limits. Miguel Sano certainly still possesses the ability to play third, but now that Josh Donaldson’s arrival has pushed Sano across the diamond, Baldelli prefers to keep him there to continue his first-base education.
“It would make the most sense to let him focus on first base and everything going on over there,” Baldelli said of Sano. “His energy and focus will be at first base.”
Donaldson’s presence probably means that Arraez, too, won’t play third base this season, even though the second baseman manned third 17 times as a rookie in 2019. Still, the Twins want to keep his glove available.
“In order to [move to another position] when the time comes, they have to stay prepared. And on top of that, Luis likes getting work around the infield,” Baldelli said. “There’s no hesitation to put him over there.”
Kepler’s status is less predictable, given that Byron Buxton hasn’t played yet this spring. Kepler is the best defensive option in center if Buxton’s shoulder prevents him from being ready to start the season. “It would be good to keep Kep in right field as much as we can. But we know that it’s not always going to be [possible]. Things happen,” Baldelli said. “There’s a chance that Kepler moves around a little bit, especially in center.”
Back at it
All of the players who traveled to the Dominican Republic for Saturday’s game with the Tigers were given the day off on Sunday. But they will make up most of the Twins lineup for Monday’s game with the Cardinals.
Baldelli, who had fretted about the effect a 30-hour road trip to the Caribbean might have on his team’s spring routine, said Sunday the brief excursion was worth the effort.
“We had a great time. All of our players, especially our Dominican players, were ecstatic to be there, and the fans really welcomed us,” the manager said. “It was a lot of fun … a great experience.”
• Monday marks two weeks until the Twins break camp and head to Oakland for Opening Day, and it also will likely include the first round of roster reduction. Minor league camp is now fully underway at the Twins’ complex, so count on a handful of young players to be sent over there right away. Some of the more advanced prospects, however — such as outfielders Trevor Larnach and Alex Kirilloff and shortstop Royce Lewis — might be kept on the major league side for the time being to give them more experience.
• Josh Kalk, the Twins’ top pitching analyst, has watched some recent Grapefruit League games from the dugout. It’s good to give the data scientists a close-up view of their subject matter, Baldelli said. “It really helps everyone when you see the game from different angles. Anything you can do to increase your perspective, I really do think it helps us all,” Baldelli said. “There are a lot of people in the game that would say, watching the game from upstairs or going and scouting players and seeing guys from different ages, it adds to the experience and it only helps baseball people do what they do better.”
• Jake Odorizzi threw about 70 pitches in a simulated game and pronounced himself “really encouraged” with his progress. Buxton stood in the batters box for part of the workout to track the All-Star righthander’s pitches.
Righthander Randy Dobnak, who has given up only two hits in six innings this spring, tries to take another step toward a rotation spot when he faces the Cardinals at Hammond Stadium. Kwang Hyun Kim, the South Korean lefthander signed by the Cardinals last December, will start for St. Louis.