KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Rocco Baldelli is normally so cautious about predicting when his injured players might return, his optimism when discussing Max Kepler’s availability for the playoffs was conspicuous.
“I would anticipate [Kepler] being in the lineup” next Friday for the Twins’ postseason opener, Baldelli said. “I would anticipate him being out there on Friday.”
That doesn’t mean the Twins have abandoned their cautious approach, though. Kepler, who has been in the lineup only twice in three weeks, seems to have made steady progress in his recovery from the soreness near his left shoulder, but Baldelli said the Twins won’t take any chances this weekend.
Kepler, Baldelli said, is unlikely to play this weekend.
“As far as putting him out there for the sake of finding out [if he’s ready], I don’t think that’s the best way to approach it. I don’t think we’re going to do that,” Baldelli said. “We’re going to continue to monitor his workouts and make sure that he’s feeling better and better, as opposed to putting him in the game and saying, well, let’s see if he sinks or swims. I don’t think that’s constructive or productive way of going about it.”
Kepler might face live pitching, as opposed to 60-mile-per-hour batting practice pitches, next week as the Twins prepare for their first playoff series since 2010, as a low-impact way to test his shoulder.
Marwin Gonzalez hasn’t played since Sunday, as he is trying to avoid aggravating an oblique strain that he thought had mostly healed. Baldelli said Gonzalez’s status will largely be determined by Gonzalez. “He has a great feel for his body and what he needs to do to get ready,” Baldelli said. The manager said he plans to ask “if he want to play or thinks he needs to play this weekend.”
Infielder Ehire Adrianza, however, “is a little bit behind everyone else” as he battles his own oblique strain, Baldelli said. “He’s not 100 percent at this point. So we’re going to keep letting him heal, and we’ll see how he is by the middle of next week.”
First baseman C.J. Cron’s thumb remains an issue, too, Baldelli said, though he was able to start Friday. “He’s been kind of held back in his ability to swing the way he wants to because of the thumb,” the manager said. “We’ve been playing this day-to-day for a while, and that’s really our only option.”
• Due to a storm expected to arrive Saturday evening, the Royals decided to move up the start time for the second game of the series. The game will begin at 1:15 p.m. Saturday, the Royals announced, rather than 6:15 p.m.
• The Royals honored Ned Yost, 64, their manager for a decade, before Friday’s game, and gave him a Polaris Ranger all-terrain vehicle for use on his Georgia farm. Yost, who led Kansas City to the 2015 World Series championship over the Mets, announced this week that he will retire at season’s end.
• Nelson Cruz said he grew a little emotional watching former Mariners teammate Felix Hernandez pitch a farewell game in Seattle on Thursday night. “It was really emotional. The fans who have been there supporting him for years were all over it,” said Cruz, who played for Seattle 2015-18. “I talked to the clubbies there and a few of the [players] — the atmosphere was great. He means so much for the organization.” Hernandez is only 33, and Cruz said he expects his fellow Venezuelan to sign somewhere else next year. The Mariners gave Cruz a similar salute last year in his last game. “I played the outfield, and they took me out, so could jog in,” he said. “It was really nice ovation.”