The Twins spent Friday afternoon getting used to the concept of seven-inning games, when Major League Baseball informed them they will play a couple next month in St. Louis.
But the future arrived more quickly than that.
Slow-moving rain showers arrived at Target Field just before the scheduled 7:10 p.m. start of Twins-Royals on Friday, and rather than have players hang around waiting for the skies to clear — an activity discouraged under MLB’s coronavirus protocols — the Twins postponed the game until Saturday, creating some Twins history.
Both games in Saturday’s doubleheader will be seven innings long, the first time in franchise history that games have been scheduled for fewer than nine innings.
Jake Odorizzi will start the first game, scheduled for 12:35 p.m., and Jose Berrios will start the second, which will begin 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first. Both games will be televised by Fox Sports North.
Major League Baseball and the players’ union agreed to shorten games in doubleheaders on July 31, after the season was already underway, as coronavirus-related postponements started to pile up.
Some say shortening games to seven innings — long a staple of minor league doubleheaders — is a prudent modification; others call it a blasphemous gimmick. Derek Falvey, Twins president of baseball operations, says he is interested to see the change play out before deciding whether he supports making it permanent, as has been suggested.
“In a doubleheader context, I’m open-minded to this,” Falvey said. “Much like we talked about with the runner on second [to begin extra innings]. Some folks were initially averse to that, and maybe end up changing their mind to some degree just watching how it’s played out. I kind of feel the same way about this. Anyone who has been at the ballpark for a traditional 18-innings doubleheader, it can be long and it does take a couple days sometimes to recover. … Would I rather play 14 [innings] than 18? For sure.”
The Twins will be allowed to add an extra player to their roster for the doubleheader, even though this season’s 28-man rosters are already three players larger than in years past. They will announce the identity of their 29th player, summoned from their camp in St. Paul, before game time Saturday.
In their previous 59 seasons in Minnesota, the Twins have played 32 official games of seven innings or less, all of them shortened because of weather, most recently last Sept. 27 at Kansas City. The Twins are 13-17-2 in those games.
Scheduled seven-inning games became a reality for the Twins on Friday morning, when MLB announced that the St. Louis Cardinals, who haven’t played a game since July 29 in Target Field, would resume their virus-ravaged season Saturday — and attempt to make up most or all of the 14 games that were postponed after several players and staff members tested positive for COVID-19.
In order to give the Cardinals an off day amid their scheduled jammed with a couple of doubleheaders each week, the Twins agreed to play their two-game series in St. Louis entirely on Sept. 8, rather than playing the second game a day later.
“We’re going to need six [starting] pitchers in a five-day span now,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said of the new plan. “But we also know, big picture-wise, that the Cardinals’ situation is unique. The situation we’re dealing with this season is unique, and we’re going to be asked to do different things we may not have expected.”
That doubleheader adds another unusual twist to the schedule — the Twins were scheduled for an off day on Sept. 10, so now they will have back-to-back days without a game — just as they had this week with Thursday’s off day followed by Friday’s rainout.
“That’s kind of a unique thing, too. So you start thinking, are you going to have a workout on that day? Make it optional? You’re going to have pitchers that need to throw,” Baldelli said. “It’s just one more wrinkle in a season of wrinkles.”