Matt Shoemaker came out of the Twins' final spring training tuneup feeling confident.
"Really confident," were his exact words.
The righthander, who went three innings in Tuesday's 1-1 tie with the Pittsburgh Pirates — will be the team's No. 4 starter after manager Rocco Baldelli solidified his pitching rotation heading into Opening Day.
Kenta Maeda will start at Milwaukee on Thursday before Jose Berrios and Michael Pineda round out that series. Shoemaker will start at Detroit on April 5, with lefthander J.A. Happ taking the second game. Maeda will then take that series finale, leaving Berrios as the home opener starter April 8 against Seattle.
"He came into this camp ready to go," Baldelli said of Shoemaker. "He didn't use the camp as a way to ramp really up. From the first bullpen I saw him throw, there was an intensity there. There was a lot of focus, but he was already throwing the ball at a pretty high level for the entire camp."
Baldelli added the reason he chose Shoemaker — a free-agent signing who has accumulated only 18 starts in the past three seasons because of injuries — ahead of Happ in the rotation has more to do with Happ's readiness than anything.
Happ, a free-agent addition who pitched last year for the Yankees, missed the start of camp after testing positive for COVID-19.
"Just giving J.A. every extra day that we could," Baldelli said. "… And truthfully, it's not even a huge point. Mapping things out, any time we see a guy that comes in a little later, or for whatever reason, was held back a bit, we just want to maximize their ability to get ready."
In Shoemaker's tuneup, he hung an off-speed pitch that Pittsburgh's Ke'Bryan Hayes belted for a home run in the first inning, but that was his only mistake.
"It got better each inning, which was good," Shoemaker said, "… with pitch execution, locating, throwing the pitches where I want."
The Twins managed only one hit, a ground-ball single by Luis Arraez, in the seven-inning game Tuesday.
That meant the Twins finished with the worst batting average (.215) and on-base percentage (.278) in 28 Grapefruit League games.
Back to the North
While the Opening Day roster flew up to Milwaukee, a few key faces were missing from the team.
Baldelli, along with President of Baseball Operations Derek Falvey and General Manager Thad Levine, will instead head west to Arizona to attend the funeral service for Mike Bell. The Twins' bench coach last season, Bell passed away because of kidney cancer March 26 at the age of 46.
Baldelli said he will reconvene with the team Wednesday night in Milwaukee but will miss the workout that day. The Twins will also have a simulated game for Happ to stay on schedule.
Home opener hype
The Twins released some plans for the April 8 home opener against Seattle.
Former manager Ron Gardenhire will toss out the first pitch to his son, Toby, the new manager for the Twins' Class AAA affiliate St. Paul Saints.
The team will also honor the passing of Bell, Star Tribune columnist Sid Hartman and broadcaster Tom Hanneman and wear "MB" patches on their uniforms throughout the season.
There will be 10,000 fans allowed at Target Field for the home opener. The Saints announced CHS Field will play host to a viewing party for the opener.