FORT MYERS, FLA. – Jake Odorizzi is an Astro now. But he said Tuesday that his Twins career may not yet be over.
"I loved my time in Minnesota. Maybe there's a time to circle back after this stint [in Houston] is done," Odorizzi said by video call from the Astros' camp in Palm Beach. "I don't know what the future holds, but [Minnesota] is going to hold a special place in my heart for a long time."
The 30-year-old righthander, who posted a 4.11 ERA in 66 starts over three seasons with the Twins, said he hadn't intended to wait out the free-agent market for more than four months, and "it was really stressful on me." But he wound up signing a two-year contract with Houston that guarantees him $20.25 million, includes a player option for 2023, and could be worth more than $13 million more in bonuses.
"It worked out great in the end," Odorizzi said. But "from a baseball standpoint, this is one of the most frustrating experiences I've ever had. … The living by your phone, hoping something comes every day, it's not a very fun way to live. … There were some dark days."
He hoped the Twins would make an offer that he found acceptable, but when they signed lefthander J.A. Happ to a one-year, $8 million contract, "I thought, 'You know, it's probably not going to happen.' It's time to move on and focus on being a Houston Astro."
But first, Odorizzi said, he wanted to say thanks, on behalf of his wife Carissa and two young sons, to his former home, where he became an All-Star in 2019, and started a playoff game at Target Field that fall.
"The atmosphere there [in that game], the feeling, the energy, the whole city behind you, that's a moment that's going to stand in my head for a very long time," Odorizzi said. "So thank you for making us honorary Minnesotans for our three years. I truly enjoyed my time up there. My whole family did."
Happ tunes up
Happ, who missed nearly two weeks after becoming infected with COVID-19, threw two innings against Twins hitters over the weekend, and "he was probably sharper than I was expecting, based on what he's been through," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "Physically, he looks good."
The Twins are being cautious, the manager said, but will start easing him into action, probably an inning at a time, sometime this week.
"He's obviously a little bit behind the rest of our starters who have had a full camp, but we're not prepared to make any declarations yet on J.A. Happ" and his readiness to start the season on time, Baldelli said.
Andrelton Simmons was the only position player in camp on Monday, one of two scheduled off days during the Grapefruit League season, and did a full workout with coaches. "He took some balls at short, got some swings in the cage, got a workout in the gym, and moved around," Baldelli said. The Twins intend to have their new shortstop, whose arrival at camp was delayed for two weeks by immigration paperwork, face live batting practice against Twins pitchers every day this week.
And then? "We have him scheduled to come into a game and get some real action, I believe, on Friday" against the Braves, Baldelli said. "It's kind of a loose goal. We'll see how he is over the next couple of days."
Kenta Maeda started Tuesday's game against the Orioles and José Berríos will start Wednesday against the Rays. When they pitched last week, the order was reversed. Is this an indication that Baldelli and pitching coach Wes Johnson intend for Maeda to get the Opening Day start, April 1 in Milwaukee?
Baldelli said he isn't ready to announce that. "We still have some flexibility to do whatever we want with our rotation," he said. The next three games will be started by Berríos, Matt Shoemaker and Michael Pineda.
Maeda's house in Santa Monica, Calif., was the site of an attempted burglary on Sunday, according to TMZ Sports. Three people smashed windows in an apparent to gain entry to the home, the report said, but fled when the broken windows activated an alarm system.