PITTSBURGH – Jake Odorizzi knows his limitations. He figures he will have about 70-75 pitches in him Saturday when he makes his season debut at Kansas City.
The important thing is that the Twins righthander is finally healthy after being slowed by an intercostal strain that caused back pain, and he’s ready to join the cause. He threw four simulated innings Monday in the St. Paul camp and felt good enough that he only needed a bullpen session Wednesday.
“If I would have rushed it, it could have been a thing that just lingers the entire year or whatever it may be,” he said, “but that’s what we didn’t want.
“Having the flexibility of 30 guys on the roster right now kind of gave us a little bit extra leeway with that, especially with the rash of starting pitcher issues right now across the entire league. Taking it a little bit slower might have been the correct move considering what’s all been happening.”
An All-Star last season, Odorizzi went 15-7 with a 3.51 ERA. He will join a rotation that needs him, as Homer Bailey and Rich Hill remain on the injured list.
“Is Jake gonna go out there and throw 110 [pitches] his first start? No, that’s not gonna happen,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “But we’re just gonna let him pitch and hopefully he can pitch us somewhere into the middle of the game. And if he does that he’s gonna be in a great spot coming around to his next start.”
Devin Smeltzer will start Friday night at Kansas City.
Down to 28
The Twins sent outfielder Aaron Whitefield to the St. Paul camp to get to the 28-player limit Major League Baseball required by Thursday. They were only carrying 29 after Hill was put on the injured list Monday.
Teams were allowed to open the shortened season with 30-man rosters, but had to reduce them to 28 after two weeks, then 26 two weeks later. The league decided this week, however, that teams can keep 28 players for the rest of the season, and that the three-man taxi squad will be expanded to five for road trips.
The decision was made in reaction to COVID-19 outbreaks on the Marlins and Cardinals.
“Everyone was prepared for it,” Baldelli said, “but I do think it was a very nice play by the league because we also are seeing the difficulties early in the year, not COVID stuff, even, but also just injury-wise and what different teams and players are dealing with.”
“It has been challenging in that regard and knowing that you don’t have to ride players ever into the ground is just something we would always avoid anyway. But knowing we don’t have to do it because we have that extra player is very, very helpful.”
Second baseman Luis Arraez doubled in four at-bats Wednesday to halt an 0-for-17 skid. He sat out Thursday’s 6-5 loss to the Pirates.
Arraez hit .334 last season with a .399 on base percentage. While he’s battled in many of his at-bats, the line drives have not been as frequent. And opponents are testing him inside more, which actually began toward the end of last season.
“I don’t really like working off small sample sizes or anything like that,” Baldelli said. “We’re talking about a few swings here and there, maybe.
“The quality of the at-bats is still very, very good. He’s probably as difficult of an at-bat for a lot of pitchers as anyone in the game. I think that as we play this season out, we’re going to see it.”
Third baseman Josh Donaldson had a recovery day Thursday after being on the field before Wednesday’s game. He worked out in the gym but did little else.
Donaldson, out because of a tight right calf, is expected to work out on the field before Friday’s game vs. the Royals.