FORT MYERS, Fla. — By quirk of the calendar, Phil Hughes’ starts keep falling on days the Twins are playing Baltimore, the same team they’ll face in two weeks when the season started. That coincidence has meant Hughes has pitched to minor-league players a couple of times, in order to avoid giving the Orioles repeated looks at his pitches.
But today, it cost him two and a half hours on a bus.
The Twins split their roster today to play two games, and if the opponent here at Hammond Stadium was any other team, Hughes would be on the mound for the home team. But those orange-and-black uniforms are on the field here already, meaning Hughes was up early to catch the team’s 7:30 a.m. bus trip through rush-hour traffic up to Clearwater, where a distinctly young Twins team will take on the Phillies.
There are certainly worse working conditions than riding a bus for a few hours, but pitchers point out that long rides make you a little stiff when you arrive.
Anyway, to fill out the team up north, the Twins brought along an interesting mix of minor-league players, too, including Daniel Palka. That’s the first baseman/outfielder the Twins received from Arizona last winter in exchange for Chris Herrmann. Palka will start the season at Class AA Chattanooga, but the Twins are optimistic that he’ll develop into a decent power hitter in a few years. He’s got 60 in the minor leagues already.
Also up north: Trevor Hildenberger, the sidearmed reliever who dominated at Class A last season, plus former first-round draft pick Levi Michael.
It all makes for a very young team, considering most of the Twins’ veterans remained here in Fort Myers. The projected starting outfield of Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano will face the Phillies, and Byung Ho Park is there, too.
Here in Fort Myers, the veterans, managed by Joe Vavra, will meet an Orioles team made up of plenty of their starters, too. And with the starting outfield gone, the makeshift lineup here is an unusual mix: Carlos Quentin, Darin Mastroianni and Oswaldo Arcia, all of them needing at-bats to make their case that they should be on the final roster. Logan Darnell will get the start and likely pitch only two innings; with Hughes gone, it’s a “bullpen game” for the Twins.
Here are today’s lineups for both games; the game vs. Baltimore is televised by Fox Sports North at noon CT:
And in Clearwater: