MIAMI – The Twins will play three games against the Marlins in an interleague road series starting Tuesday. And that means Nelson Cruz likely will not start any of the games, despite being named the AL player of the week on Monday.
If the Twins are the BombaSquad, then Cruz is Papa Bomba; he had seven home runs in a five game stretch that ended Friday, and has 25 home runs, despite missing 19 games because of a wrist injury. But he is also a designated hitter, which isn’t used in NL parks. For a team that is looking for a surge to distance itself from Cleveland in the AL Central, it’s not good to replace one of baseball’s top power hitters with a ... weak-hitting pitcher.
“It’s never ideal when you have a guy who is predominantly a DH and who is also one of the best hitters in baseball,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “You’d love to have him in the lineup every single day. He’s also been out there for a while and getting a lot of at-bats lately and been producing fairly well too in addition to that.
“For him to be off his feet for a day or for two days or for half a game isn’t the worst thing in the world, I don’t think.”
A similar thing occurred during the first road trip of the season. Cruz opened batting .333 with a .500 on-base percentage while hitting a home run and driving in six runs over the Twins’ first five games. Then, during five road games against the Phillies and Mets, he batted once.
Cruz, who also had 13 RBI, 10 runs and a .414 batting average last week, got work in at first base before Saturday’s game, but he has never played there. He is a former outfielder and started four games in right for Seattle last year, but outfield range is a strength of the Twins defense that would be disrupted by the appearance of the 39-year-old Cruz.
The likelihood is that Cruz will be on the bench as a pinch hitter supreme during the three games against the Marlins.
“It’s not the worst option if he is not starting,” Baldelli said.
Grab a bat
Michael Pineda laughed over the weekend when asked if he was ready to hit. “That’s a good question,” he said.
Pineda is scheduled to start Thursday. He is 2-for-11 in his hitting career and said he is just looking to swing easy — then run the bases easy.
The Twins will take that, as the last thing they want to have is one of their pitchers get injured doing things they aren’t used to doing.
Jake Odorizzi, Tuesday’s starter, took some swings Saturday in Chicago and described them as adequate. His goal is to do whatever he can to be productive.
Twins pitchers are 0-for-6 hitting in NL parks this season. Kyle Gibson had two hits last year, but he isn’t scheduled to start in this series.
And since interleague play began in 1997, Twins pitchers have yet to hit a home run.
Parker a free agent
Reliever Blake Parker, who was designated for assignment last week, rejected his assignment to Rochester and will be a free agent.
Parker, 34, was the Twins’ most expensive free-agent signing for the bullpen last winter at $1.8 million and saved eight games and posted a 1.04 ERA in his first 18 appearances. But nine walks and six home runs in his final 19 innings caused the Twins to move on.
Relievers Adalberto Mejia, Mike Morin and Matt Magill were also DFAed in recent weeks by the Twins and found new homes — although Mejia was designated for assignment again by the Angels on Friday after only six days with them.
• Brusdar Graterol, the Twins’ top-rated pitching prospect, threw a perfect inning for the rookie level Gulf Coast Twins in his rehab assignment Monday, hitting 100 miles per hour on the radar gun. The 20-year-old righthander had been sidelined because of a shoulder impingement after posting a 1.89 ERA over two months at Class AA Pensacola.
• Loek van Mil, who pitched parts of six seasons in the Twins system and at 7-feet-1 was the tallest player in professional baseball history, died at age 34. The Royal Dutch Baseball and Softball Federation announced van Mil, who got as far as Class AAA Rochester, died “due to the consequences of a fatal accident.”