Jake Odorizzi threw in the bullpen before Thursday’s game and said the back strain that landed him in the injured list is gone. But it’s still unknown when his first start of the season will take place.
Odorizzi and the Twins are moving at a deliberate pace to make sure there are no setbacks. Odorizzi also wants to face some hitters before he pitches in a regular-season game.
“I think I’m going to face some hitters on Monday, give or take a day a little bit, and then after that figure out what the plan is from there,” Odorizzi said. “I think it’s all subject to change, but it’s really I need to face some of our guys over in St. Paul before I step foot into a game and get right back into it. Give it a small test and just get acclimated again with hitters.”
Odorizzi said he felt a little tightness during a five-inning outing July 14 but pitched through it and thought it would go away in a couple of days. When the discomfort lingered, he was scratched from an intrasquad outing five days later and eventually placed on the IL.
“Instead of just pushing through it and pitching at 85 percent health, I didn’t think that was a very smart idea for me or the team so just take it now and not have any flare-ups,” Odorizzi said. “I think that was the most important thing. I’d rather it be on the front end than the back end when the playoffs roll around later on in the season.”
With several pitchers around the league already out because of injuries — most notably the Astros’ Justin Verlander with a forearm strain — Odorizzi said he’s wondered about how the delayed start to the season and the second training camp have affected arms.
“I think there’s probably something to it with the short ramp-up, especially starters,” Odorizzi said. “I think starters have been more affected with injuries than relievers to this point.”
Because of Odorizzi’s injury, righthander Randy Dobnak will get another start Friday when the Twins face Cleveland in the second of the teams’ four-game series. Dobnak started last Saturday in an eventual 10-3 loss against the White Sox, giving up one earned runs over four innings. He’s come in handy after being called up during the second half of last season.
“I almost feel like it’s unfair to Dobnak to call him even a spot starter these days because he’s pitched so well,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He’s done so many things for us. That being said, he is a member of that group. I can’t label it in any way and his willingness to do so and pitch in different situations really helps us out and makes our lives so much easier.”
Back on the horse
Closer Taylor Rogers did not forget how to pitch, retiring the Cardinals in order Wednesday to earn his first save in a 3-0 victory. Rogers was not rusty in his first outing of the season, averaging 94.6 miles per hour on the radar gun with his fastball and getting swings and misses with his breaking pitches.
Baldelli said pitching coach Wes Johnson made sure Rogers didn’t get dull while waiting for his chance.
“Wes had him get up on a mound, throw to a catcher numerous times over this last week,” Baldelli said. “Just a few pitches here and there, just to keep that feel. But also when the game starts, to go out there and be that sharp was very, very impressive. He looked like a guy who was as sharp as he can possibly be.”
Rogers, who posted a 2.61 ERA last season while notching 30 saves in his first season as the closer, waited patiently for his debut. He could have appeared in Tuesday’s 6-3 victory over St. Louis, but Sergio Romo was given the chance because he had warmed up earlier in the game and also hadn’t yet appeared in a game.
“Didn’t really know what to expect,” Rogers said. “Tried to keep from thinking about how much or how little I’ve pitched. Just one less thing to think about. Trust the overall bulk and consistency of the work that’s put in every day.”