Major League Baseball is set to announce Wednesday that teams on Opening Day will wear patches on their uniforms calling for racial justice in the United States, according to several sources with knowledge of the plan.
Two patches under consideration say “Black Lives Matter” and “United For Change,” though it is not clear if the decision to wear them will be left up to individual players or teams.
MLB’s decision to have players wear patches comes after several weeks of dialogue with many of its Black players, who expressed a desire to make a statement during the start of a season that has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.
As of Monday night, not every team was behind the idea of wearing the patches, but dialogue will likely continue right up until first pitches are thrown across the league.
Some Twins players also have discussed taking a knee during the national anthem when they play the White Sox in their opener in Chicago on Friday night. The Twins play the Cubs in an exhibition game Wednesday night.
The decision to call attention to racial justice comes after a tumultuous spring and summer during which protests and rioting have occurred following the deaths of Black men and women killed by law enforcement in recent years.
But the killing of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody on May 25 led to nationwide and international protests and riots. Floyd’s death fueled demand for police reform, and the sports world has responded in speaking out against racial injustice. Athletes in both hemispheres have taken a knee and have raised a fist in the air during pregame ceremonies in support of the cause.
The owners of the Twins, the Pohlad family, have announced they will donate $25 million to fight racial injustice.
“Black people have experienced oppression and racism for far too long in this country,” Bill Pohlad said in a team statement at the time. “We condemn racism in all its forms, and we are firmly committed to this work beyond this seminal moment in our country’s history.”
Kneeling before the anthem has been a hot-button topic in the United States ever since NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee before a preseason game in 2016. Some have decried the action as anti-military or anti-America; others understood it’s meant to protest social issues. The gesture still could divide clubhouses.
Decisions to make
The Twins don’t know yet whether Byron Buxton’s sprained left foot and Jake Odorizzi’s stiff back will keep them out of this weekend’s season-opening series in Chicago. But those discomforts have probably had an effect on the Twins’ roster decisions.
Thirty-three players flew to Chicago, where the Twins will play an exhibition game at Wrigley Field on Wednesday, then open the Twins’ 60th season against the White Sox on Friday night. Manager Rocco Baldelli and President of Baseball Operations Derek Falvey are not required to turn in the team’s 30-man Opening Day roster until 11 a.m. Friday, and the status of Buxton and Odorizzi could cause them to wait until the deadline.
Buxton has not played since being driven off the field on a cart on June 13, though Baldelli has not ruled him out for this weekend. But his status almost certainly means that backup outfielders Jake Cave and LaMonte Wade Jr. will initially make the team, in case Buxton cannot play for a few days. Putting Buxton on the injured list would sideline him for 15 days, which the Twins won’t want to do if it appears he can be ready before that.
Odorizzi, too, was too sore to make his final tuneup intrasquad start Saturday, but putting a pitcher on the injured list now means he must be idled for 10 days. To avoid that, the Twins figure to start the season with a 16-man pitching staff that will include three extra starting pitchers — Randy Dobnak, Devin Smeltzer and Lewis Thorpe, any one of whom could fill in for Odorizzi. It also means Matt Wisler, an offseason waiver claim who has 57 major league starts, is likely to open the season with the Twins, to back up that long-relief role.
“We’re in a pretty good spot, where we don’t have too many decisions right now,” Baldelli said Monday. But he said the Twins would “stay a little more conservative right now than we normally would” in roster construction.
Bailey starts vs. Cubs
Homer Bailey will be on the mound Wednesday in a familiar place: Wrigley Field, where he has started 11 games during his big-league career. Bailey, who is 5-4 in the iconic park but hasn’t won there since April 20, 2014, will make his final appearance before his regular-season Twins debut, presumably next week in Target Field.
Bailey will be followed by relievers Zack Littell and Tyler Clippard in the 6:05 p.m. game, which will be televised by Fox Sports North.
The Cubs have dropped a pair of exhibition games against the White Sox, 7-3 on Sunday in Wrigley Field and 5-3 Monday in Guaranteed Rate Field. Wednesday’s game will be the Twins’ only exhibition.