CHICAGO – The Twins dropped the opener of their four-game series against the White Sox 3-1 on Monday, maybe partly because the club was missing three starters.
Second baseman Marwin Gonzalez was a late scratch because of a non-COVID illness, forcing the Twins to activate Travis Blankenhorn from the taxi squad.
First baseman Miguel Sano and left fielder Eddie Rosario, both removed during Sunday's game because of injuries, were also out of the starting lineup. Sano is battling a stiff neck while Rosario injured his left elbow colliding with Byron Buxton in the outfield.
Blankenhorn, a 24-year-old left-handed hitting infielder, was the Twins' third round choice in 2015 and has never played above Class AA. He split last season between Class A Fort Myers and AA Pensacola, hitting .277 with 19 home runs. To make room for him on the roster, reliever Devin Smeltzer was sent to St. Paul.
Sano is in a 1-for-10 skid at the plate and struck out in all three plate appearances Sunday before being removed from the game.
"We just deemed Miggy not being at the point where he can turn his head enough to play at the moment," manager Rocco Baldelli said before the game.
"Didn't feel comfortable putting him in the lineup. His is more of an injury that any of us could be dealing with at any moment. But as far as hitting and throwing, having trouble turning his head has been kind of a little bit of a bummer and more of a pain than anything else.
"[Rosario] is going to need another day. We'll see how he is. We're going to keep treating him and see how he is by game time and maybe as the game gets going possibly he can help us out in the game. But he's not going to start tonight."
Together, Sano and Rosario have 21 homers and 54 RBI, so their absence at the start of a key series is significant. With second baseman Luis Arraez (knee tendinitis) and catcher Mitch Garver (intercostal strain) already on the injured list, the Twins were down five key players.
"It took us several hours at the ballpark today to fill out our lineup and to see who was going to be available," Baldelli said. "We had a lot of guys to check on."
May is OK
Righthander Trevor May also left Sunday's game because of back spasms, but felt better Monday.
"Trevor May is doing fine," Baldelli said. "I saw him as he was walking by the office. This is something that's fairly minor that apparently he's dealt with before. He just felt it at an odd time out on the mound and it subsided very, very quickly and he gave us the thumbs up and said he's good."
Garver played in an intrasquad game at the alternative training camp in St. Paul on Monday as he continues to work his way back. Righthander Homer Bailey will pitch Tuesday in St. Paul as he gets over biceps tendinitis
As far as future roster moves, it may be more important to focus on who is traveling with the club than who is in St. Paul.
Baldelli confirmed that catcher Alex Avila, recovering from lower back tightness, and righthander Jake Odorizzi, over a chest contusion, are on the trip with the club. Odorizzi is expected to be activated from the injured list in order to start Wednesday against Chicago. Avila's presence indicates that he, too, is close to returning. Garver still could get the green light later this week, but Avila apparently is closer to a return.
Reliever Tyler Clippard has a 1.86 ERA and a 0.931 WHIP. Those are very good numbers. But his walk rate of 1.4 batters per nine innings would be a career-best mark. How?
"There was a time in 2018, when I was with the Blue Jays, I think maybe in June of that season, I started to incorporate a two-seam fastball," Clippard, 35, said. "It just allowed me to be more aggressive in the zone and have better armside command."
Since throwing more two-seamers, or sinkers, Clippard's walk rate went from 4.6 per nine innings in 2017 to 3.0 in 2018 then 2.2 last season with Cleveland before signing with the Twins.