Minnesota baseball fans, take heart: Max Kepler took batting practice Wednesday.
Mitch Garver, too. Also Ehire Adrianza and Gilberto Celestino. And it all took place at Target Field just a couple of hours after Trevor May, Jorge Alcala and a half-dozen other Twins pitchers threw in the ballpark’s socially distanced bullpens.
The first stirrings of a big-league season were recorded in downtown Minneapolis on July 1, 97 days after what was supposed to be Opening Day. Once the results of the initial round of coronavirus tests are returned Thursday or Friday, the Twins will hold their first full-squad workout since March.
“I am ready,” Nelson Cruz posted on Instagram, along with a video of him hitting and the tagline “The Best Is Yet to Come.” Cruz, who turned 40 on Wednesday but had no celebration planned because his wife and children remained in the Dominican Republic, could not join his teammates in their informal hitting session because his test results have not yet arrived.
He hopes to on Thursday, when the members of the Twins’ taxi squad will go through informal workouts at Target Field before moving to St. Paul’s CHS Field this weekend to began a separate camp.
The Twins will not reveal whether all 59 players have arrived in Minnesota, a spokesman said, until testing is complete. “A few” players in the organization tested positive for COVID-19 last week, but the team has not disclosed their identity. No players have indicated that they intend to opt out of the 60-game season, as a handful of others have around MLB.
Several players who drove to town, flew in earlier this week or have ridden out much of the three-month delay in the Twin Cities arrived at the ballpark Wednesday to unpack their gear in the Twins clubhouse, reconfigured to discourage players from congregating or getting close enough to spread the virus.
No paycheck for Wisler
Twins players will not be paid for the three-week training camp this month. Like spring training in Florida, they will receive only a daily per diem until the season starts, at which time they will earn 1/162nd of their contracted salary for each game the team plays.
Reliever Matt Wisler, however, won’t be paid that either. Or more precisely, he already has.
Wisler, claimed off waivers from the Mariners in October, agreed a month later to a guaranteed salary for 2020 of $725,000, avoiding arbitration. Prorated for a 60-game season, that’s $268,519. But MLB owners advanced players $170 million for April and May, which worked out to $4,775 per day for players with guaranteed major league contracts, or a total of $286,500.
In other words, Wisler has received $17,981 more than his prorated 2020 salary. According to the Associated Press, 10 other players around MLB are in the same situation as Wisler, who gave up two runs in five Grapefruit League innings earlier this year.
Wisler won’t have to pay back the money. The deal between the players and owners that included the advance pay also stipulated that if the money can’t be recouped by taking it out of paychecks this season, it will be repaid by the “tax fund” collected from teams that exceed their bonus maximums to sign international amateur free agents.
In other words, Wisler got a raise — but he will get no more paychecks.
Fifth-round pick signs
The Twins completed their 2020 draft on Wednesday by signing fifth-round pick Kala’i Rosario, a high school outfielder from Hilo, Hawaii.
Rosario will receive a bonus of $270,000, or about 18% less than the recommended slot figure of $330,100.
First-round pick Aaron Sabato, a first baseman from the University of North Carolina, signed last week for $2.75 million as the 27th overall selection. Alerick Soularie, an outfielder from the University of Tennessee, signed for a $900,000 bonus, and fourth-rounder Marco Raya, a righthander from Laredo, Texas, received $410,000. The Twins did not have a third-round pick, a penalty for having signed free agent Josh Donaldson.
In all, the Twins spent $4,330,000 to sign their four picks in the shortest MLB draft in history, or about $198,600 less than the maximum allowed under the rules. Only Sabato received more than his slot figure, becoming the first Twins first-round choice ever to do so.
The Twins also signed five amateur free agents for bonuses of the maximum $20,000 apiece.