On Opening Day at Target Field, let’s say Byron Buxton hits a hot smash to Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter, whose throw pulls Paul Goldschmidt off first base just as Buxton arrives. Hit or error?
Don’t bother turning to the press box for the answer. The decision is being made in a basement 10 miles away, in the Roseville office of Twins official scorer Stew Thornley.
In an effort to expose as few people as possible to coronavirus risk, Major League Baseball last month informed its scorebookkeepers that they will work remotely, watching each game via a live computer feed rather than from the press box.
“We all know it’s much better to be there,” said Thornley, one of three Minnesotans employed by MLB to compile a statistical record of each Twins home game. “But we all understand the circumstances, and their regard for our safety and the safety of others.”
In order to give scorers the best possible look at each play, MLB “has given us more and better tools to do our jobs,” said Thornley, who has scored Twins games since 2007.
Those tools include a special proprietary live feed for scorers, a full-field camera angle to allow them to watch replays of baserunners and fielders simultaneously, and a Slack channel to communicate with MLB employees.
“It’s really a team effort, with the DataCast operator, the [ball-and-strike] operator, and the field timing coordinator,” Thornley said. His wife, Brenda Himrich, is a timing coordinator at Target Field, keeping countdown clocks between innings and during pitching changes, and will be stationed in the press box while he’s at home.
Thornley, who shares duties with Gregg Wong and Kyle Traynor, is on a four-member MLB advisory committee that oversees scoring operations, so he’s been involved in much of the planning for remote work. It’s going to be strange, he said, “but we’re all professionals.” He’ll have a big-screen with the live feed, computer screens with the boxscore and FSN’s 12-second-delayed broadcast (muted, so as not to influence his decisions), and access to whatever replays he needs — to confirm his judgments, not to make them.
“Maybe we’ll learn some things about how we do things,” Thornley said. “I’d rather be at the ballpark, but the rest of the world is learning how to operate remotely, and maybe we will, too.”
• The Canadian government’s decision not to allow the Blue Jays to stage home games in Toronto might have an effect on a Twins affiliate. If the Jays decide to move their games to Sahlen Field in Buffalo, Frontier Field in nearby Rochester, N.Y., home of the Class AAA Red Wings, could be used as the workout site for the Jays’ nonroster players.
• The Twins had planned a Saturday evening intrasquad game to give Jose Berrios one last tuneup before he opens the season Friday in Chicago. But when the weather forecast included rain, manager Rocco Baldelli chose to cancel the game and have Berrios throw live batting practice two hours earlier instead. Berrios pitched six innings, throwing more than 80 pitches to his teammates, none of whom drove the ball deep. Taylor Rogers, Sergio Romo and Trevor May also pitched, along with starter Rich Hill, who surrendered a home run to Josh Donaldson, a blast that ignited a profanity-filled reaction from Hill that entertained his teammates.
• Luis Arraez took infield practice and several at-bats Saturday, showing no effects of the tendinitis in his right knee that bothered him a day earlier. Miguel Sano, trying to catch up after missing 10 days with COVID-19, took extra at-bats during the workout.
• Twins Hall of Fame first baseman Kent Hrbek, on Sano’s move to his old position this year: “He’s a big lumbering guy, but he’s an athlete. I thought he played third base fine. He has to realize he’s a big, important part of the team over there. …[First base is] not as easy as people think, but he’s got the tools to do it well.”
• Buxton did not take any swings Saturday, but he ran in the outfield. “He’s made some steady improvement,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said of the outfielder, who suffered a sprained left foot Monday. “He looks good. The swelling has not become a real issue. I’m encouraged we’re going to see him out there sometime soon.”