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The Twins Beat

La Velle E. Neal III and Phil Miller report on the Twins from wherever they make news

Berrios, Dobnak dominate Twins informal intrasquad game

At one point during Wednesday’s intrasquad game, Twins catcher Alex Avila stood up from behind the plate, turned to a lone figure standing in the first row of seats directly behind him, and fired the ball toward him, into the screen.

So much for robot umpires.

 

 

Actually, the lighthearted moment probably said more about the Twins’ playful state of mind than their opinion about the Trackman system used to call balls and strikes during the umpire-less game. Jose Berrios and Randy Dobnak pitched four scoreless innings apiece, with Berrios striking out five and Dobnak four, and the Twins enjoyed their first semi-competitive baseball “game” since March 11.

"Through everything that’s gone on — pandemic, coming back, spring training 2.0, the masks, really so many things — just being able to go back out on the field, putting baseball pants on, making it a place where the guys can go out and enjoy themselves and have fun and just play baseball in a normal atmosphere, that’s helpful and positive and probably sparks a little bit of positive emotion for all the guys out there on the field,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “They had fun with it.”

The pitchers especially. Berrios allowed a first-inning single to Nelson Cruz and a double down the left field line to Byron Buxton, but struck out Ehire Adrianza to work out of trouble. He threw 63 pitches over four innings, walked only one, and “his stuff was up exactly where you would want it,” Baldelli said. “He commanded his pitches well.”

Dobnak was his equal, allowing two hits and striking out four in his four-inning, 49-pitch outing according to mlb.com. Jhoulys Chacin, Cory Gearrin and Caleb Thielbar also pitched, and none allowed a run.

But the atmosphere was the most notable part of the day. After 17 weeks spent mostly idle, the Twins clearly thirsted for playing again.

“Finally we are free again,” Berrios said. “We are glad to be all together on the field, doing what we love.”

The hitters manned their defensive positions for a few innings apiece on a rotating basis, with sharp defensive plays by Byron Buxton, Jorge Polanco and … who was the other one again?

“Frankie Padulo goes out there and makes a great play in left field to really cap it off,” Baldelli said of the Twins’ advance scout and video coordinator. “That’s probably the play of the day.”

Pitches were umpired by the Trackman radar system, with advance scout Colby Suggs standing behind the screen, relaying the calls. Pitchers and catchers didn’t always agree with the calls, and the strike zone seemed higher and narrower than they are used to, Baldelli said.

“We’re just trying it, giving the guys a taste of it. We’re not preparing them for anything,” Baldelli said. “We need an umpire. Instead of a novice umpire strapping on the gear, or someone standing in the middle of the field, we just figured we’d give it a try. It actually worked pretty well.”

Star Tribune photo of Josh Donaldson hitting during Wednesday's intrasquad game by Renee Jones Schneider

Remaining suspension for Twins pitcher Pineda is 36 games

A clarification needs to be made in the case of suspended righthander Michael Pineda.

 

 

Pineda was handed an 80-game suspension after failing a drug test during the second half of last season. The suspension was reduced to 60 games after he appealed to say he used the diuretic hydrochlorothiazide, which can be used as a masking device for PEDs, for weight loss. He sat out the remaining 21 games of the regular season, and the belief was that he had 39 games left on his suspension once this season begins.

Not so fast. A Twins official on Thursday confirmed that the three American League division series games against the Yankees — all won by New York — also counted toward his punishment. So Pineda’s remaining suspension is 36 games, not 39.

Pineda signed a two-year, $20 million contract coming into this season after going 11-5 with a 4.01 ERA in 2019. The Twins originally signed Pineda to a two-year contract before the 2018 season, which he missed while recovering from elbow surgery and a subsequent knee injury, but he emerged as one of their best starters in 2019.

He forfeited roughly $984,000 of his $8 million salary for sitting out the final 23 days (and 21 games) of the regular season. He was also four innings shy of reaching 150 innings for the season — a benchmark that would have come with a $500,000 bonus, plus another half-million for every 10 additional innings.

7:10 PM
Kansas City 0-0
Minnesota 0-0