Rocco Baldelli was back in the Twins' dugout on Thursday, but it's not where he wants to be.
Sure, he was delighted to retake control of the team after six mind-numbingly-boring days away while he waited out a mild bout with COVID. But with an eight-month daughter at home, Baldelli and his wife have agreed he should remain in a downtown hotel rather than risk infecting little Louisa. He's seen them only through a window since he returned to Minnesota.
"We're trying to be extra, extra careful," Baldelli said, but caution comes with a price. "The baby has teeth now. When I left for the road trip, the baby had no teeth, and now she has four. So it's happening fast [and] I'm not there. I need to get home."
Still, this existence beats spending three extra nights at a luxury hotel in Baltimore, where he ordered a lot of room service, watched Twins games on TV, and peppered acting manager Jayce Tingler with several phone calls per day.On Sunday, the trio of COVID-positive Twins — Baldelli, Luis Arraez and Dylan Bundy — flew home in a medical plane, small enough that Arraez had to spend the flight lying on a stretcher and the flight required a refueling stop in Grand Rapids, Mich.
"We were on the tarmac [standing] against the building, eating pretzels and watching the [Twins] game on our telephones," he said. "I wish I had taken a photo of that."
Arraez was activated from the COVID list between games, and he went right to work with a single, double and walk in four plate appearances. To make room, catcher Jose Godoy was optioned back to AAA St. Paul. Pitcher Chris Paddack, out while he considers options for his inflamed right elbow, was placed on the 60-day injured list, allowing Arraez to reclaim his 40-man roster spot.
Bundy, however, remains on the COVID list, and "he's definitely feeling some effects from being out. I wouldn't say he's at full-strength yet," Baldelli said, putting his availability against Cleveland this weekend in doubt.
Home plate umpire Chris Segal approached the Twins' ninth-inning pitcher as he walked off the field after retiring the side, and asked to see his hand. Then both burst out laughing as Segal checked for illegal substances.
No, Nick Gordon wasn't cheating as he induced a popup and two groundouts from the four Houston batters he faced in Thursday's first game. He was just upholding a family tradition — and one-upping his half-brother.
Gordon's father Tom, a three-time All-Star, pitched in 890 games, 30th-most in MLB history, and his 26-year-old son insists his dad taught him his wicked curveball.
"He did. I didn't get to use it today, though," Gordon said afterward. "I was actually shaking [off signs] to get to it. But [catcher Jose Godoy] wouldn't put it down."
Baldelli said Gordon had lobbied for an opportunity to pitch for some time, and he was willing. "I've seen Nick pitch before, in high school," while a scout for the Rays, the manager pointed out. "You never want your position players pitching, no one really is looking forward to that. But in a game like that, he might be our man."
Certainly more than his older half-brother, right? Dee Strange-Gordon, an 11-year big-league veteran, made his pitching debut exactly one month earlier, on April 12 for the Nationals. Strange-Gordon allowed three runs in his inning, including a home run to Braves infielder Ozzie Albies.
"That's what I couldn't do. A long ball? Oh, man," Gordon said with a smile. "I can't give up a long ball. I've seen my brother do it. That hurt us as a family a little bit, so we had to bounce back."