CHICAGO — The Twins’ lineup looks different today, and that’s mostly because of the pitcher they will be facing. Chris Sale, who finished third in Cy Young voting last year and owns a 6-1 record and 2.45 ERA in eight career starts against the Twins, will make his 2015 debut, after missing much of spring training with a fractured right foot.
Right-handed hitters bat .229 against Sale, with lefties managing just .194. It’s not much of an advantage, but manager Paul Molitor decided to bench lefthanders Jordan Schafer and Oswaldo Arcia, load his lineup with righthanders and hope for the best. Joe Mauer is the only left-handed hitter in today’s lineup.
“You learn to enjoy those match-ups when you’re facing the best the game has to offer,” Molitor said. “You know it’s going to be challenging, but that’s what players want. They want to be challenged.”
Sale is certainly that. The Twins managed five runs off the lanky lefty last August, but he’s also shut out Minnesota three times in his career.
“He’s tough. He’s got that funky delivery and arm slot, and he’s got three plus pitches. He can make it tough,” Molitor said. “We’re going to encourage our guys the best we can to keep it in the zone, which is hard to do because of his velocity and his movement. But the more we can make him work each and every at-bat, try to grind them out and string some hits together … hopefully you get some good results.”
It’s Phil Hughes’ second start, and the second time he faces a Cy Young contender. David Price, the 2012 AL Award winner and sixth in the voting last year, out dueled the Twins’ top starter on Opening Day.
Eduardo Escobar arrived late this morning from Minnesota, having spent Saturday with his newborn son, and he’ll play third base, with Trevor Plouffe moving across the diamond to first base. Mauer will serve as the designated hitter.
In the outfield, Shane Robinson starts in center, and Eduardo Nunez gets his first start of the season in left.
The Twins will be without setup man Casey Fien again today, Molitor said, just to make sure his shoulder is healed. Fien was feeling better on Sunday, so the Twins are optimistic he can return at Target Field this week.
Here are today’s lineups for the finale of this season-opening road trip: