PORT CHARLOTTE, FLA. – Randy Dobnak's strong outing in a 1-0 victory over Tampa Bay on Saturday was a reminder that the Twins have six starting pitchers they trust for the rotation, with lefthanders Devin Smeltzer and Lewis Thorpe just outside that group. But one member of the rotation has yet to pitch in a game this spring.
That's about to change. Lefthander J.A. Happ will make his Twins debut Monday in North Port against Atlanta, manager Rocco Baldelli said.
"He's thrown multiple live [batting practice] against hitters. He's lined up and ready to pitch," Baldelli said of the veteran starter, who missed two weeks of camp after testing positive for COVID-19. "We'll continue to get him work and stretch him out. We're not going to rush him in any way, but he's doing well, so we're just going to let him pitch."
Kenta Maeda will start Sunday's game against the Red Sox, his third Grapefruit League outing.
Rookie hones fielding
The Twins' workout ended Saturday, but Travis Blankenhorn wasn't finished. The rookie infielder spent an extra 30 minutes on Tom Kelly Field, fielding ground balls at third base, shortstop and second base.
One game in the big leagues, it seems, will make you thirst for more.
"It was definitely a unique situation, getting called up for one game," Blankenhorn said of his Sept. 15, 2020, debut and his option back to the taxi squad a day later. "But I'll remember it for the rest of my life."
Especially his ninth-inning double off White Sox rookie righthander Matt Foster, the first of what he hopes are hundreds of big-league hits. "They were throwing in on my hands the whole at-bat, up and in, up and in," said Blankenhorn, the Twins' third-round pick in 2015. "I had two strikes, and he leaked the changeup over the middle and I got a barrel on it."
Blankenhorn, a second and third baseman during his climb through the minors, is trying to expand his usefulness by taking fly balls in the outfield during batting practice. "I think outfield is something I can do," said Blankenhorn, 24, who got married in December. "Just trying to make myself available for anything."
Welcome any noise
How excited is Michael Pineda to perform before a stadium full of fans, or at least a socially distanced crowd? The former Yankees pitcher says he doesn't even mind the prospect of being booed.
"Every time you go to the mound, you want to do good work, but sometimes it's not going to happen. Sometimes you have a bad game," he said. "The fans sometimes [boo] a little, but it's OK. We're fine with that. I mean, I don't like it, but whatever they're going to do."