The Twins remembered Mike Bell with a pregame tribute Monday, giving the organization and the Bell family a bit of closure after his passing.
Bell died of kidney cancer shortly before the season began after only learning of his diagnosis this past January. The 46-year-old had been the Twins bench coach during the 2020 season.
Cincinnati manager David Bell, Mike Bell's brother, recalled in his speech at Target Field sharing a family moment on the field last season after both the Twins and Reds had clinched postseason berths.
Derek Falvey, the Twins president of baseball operations, shared how even in just a short time with the team, Mike Bell left a mark.
Literally in at least one sense, as Falvey laughed at how Bell had accidentally driven through the parking gate at Target Field last summer, and the team looped security footage of the incident on the jumbotron as a joke.
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said he will always remember his first real conversation with Bell, when the two went to lunch during the winter meetings as part of Bell's interview for the bench coach job. Baldelli came away feeling as if he had found a kindred spirit. Bell was sure he absolutely botched it.
"I distinctly remember, well before the cancer diagnosis, before Thanksgiving, I remember he shot me a note after playoffs were over … about how much fun he had last year," Falvey said. "Almost nobody had fun during 2020. Nobody described 2020 as a fun season. And Mike Bell had a lot of fun.
"I appreciate more of those things now than I did then."
Instead of rushing into the dugout after pitching a scoreless first inning, Twins starter J.A. Happ lingered on the field a bit longer.
Happ, along with all other pitchers from now on, will have to meet with the umpires during each outing to ensure there are no banned substances in use that make the ball easier to grip and spin. Pitchers have been using such concoctions as pine tar, rosin or sunscreen for years, but the league recently decided to crack down on it as more players and coaches — including Josh Donaldson — publicly decried it.
"We've told our guys there's no excuses here and that we are not going to take part in using any substances that are not allowed," Baldelli said. "Anything that we are supposed to do and follow, we will. That's coming from me, from the organization, from Wes [Johnson, pitching coach]. Even if you don't completely agree with all aspects of the way this has been laid out, that doesn't matter to me. I think that we have to do everything possible to do this the right way and go from there."
Happ allowed the officials to inspect his cap, glove and hands, and likely emptied his pockets as well to prove his arm was the only tool at his disposal.
Nelson Cruz was in the starting lineup Monday after leaving Sunday's game with a sore neck. Donaldson, who participated in pregame batting practice, did not play again. He is still recovering from a cold and a calf issue.
Catcher Mitch Garver added more activity to his recovery process for his groin contusion from a foul ball that required surgery. He played some light catch Monday and should start jogging later this week, per his manager. Baldelli also said outfielder Rob Refsnyder's return is coming sooner than anticipated.
"Despite having what I believe were multiple grade-two muscle strains in the same leg, when I heard that, I thought he'd be out for a pretty long period of time. It's looking like a two-to-four-week type thing," Baldelli said. "He's already actually going to start moving around and jogging and picking up the pace a little bit with some running. He's not going to be sprinting probably anytime soon. But that's actually pretty good based on what we were looking at when we first got him MRIed."
The Twins recently put top pitching prospect Jhoan Duran on the seven-day Class AAA injured list because of a strained right elbow. Falvey said Monday that Duran is "shut down" for a bit with the St. Paul Saints. Falvey added Matt Canterino, another top pitching prospect with Cedar Rapids, is ready to start ramping up again after being on the injured list for about two weeks with an elbow problem.
"We don't have a return to play plan for Jhoan, but we do for Matt. Everything's on track there," Falvey said. "Our plan was to shut him down for a period of time and then build him back up. Everything's on course there."