DUNEDIN, FLA. – Rocco Baldelli’s first training camp as Twins manager has emphasized efficiency and economy, with players given room to prepare without anyone being taxed too much.
But it’s time to get serious, Baldelli said Sunday.
No projected starters traveled up the Florida coast to face the Blue Jays, but that’s the last time the lineups will look this way, the manager said. “We’re to the point where our everyday players get most of the at-bats,” Baldelli said. “The other members of the team, they’re going to be essentially coming [off the bench] in a lot of games. We’ll try to get guys the work they need, but the everyday guys are going to take most of the at-bats.”
That begins Monday, when Baldelli plans to utilize what might turn out to be his Opening Day lineup: Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco, Nelson Cruz, Eddie Rosario, Marwin Gonzalez, C.J. Cron, Jonathan Schoop, Jason Castro and Byron Buxton, with Jose Berrios on the mound.
“From here on out, with the exception of maybe a day [off] for each guy, we’re going to run our [regulars] out there,” Baldelli said. The Twins also have a scheduled off day Thursday, exactly one week before the 2019 season opens in Target Field against the Indians.
The roster is about to shrink, too. The Twins are expected to make more cuts Monday. The Twins have 44 players remaining in camp, 21 of them pitchers.
Off days aplenty to start
One factor that Baldelli and the Twins front office are discussing is how to take into account their unusual schedule when shaping the final roster.
“We have a one-of-a-kind schedule to start the season,” Baldelli said. “Nobody has as many off days as we have.”
He’s right. Perhaps anticipating the need for weather-related makeup games as the Twins play their first outdoor home games ever in March later this month, MLB built five Twins off days into the first 15 days of the season. The White Sox, Nationals and Phillies are the only MLB teams scheduled off four times in that stretch, while the Athletics — who are playing two regular-season games with the Mariners in Tokyo this week — have none, and several NL West teams have only one.
Aside from the All-Star break, MLB teams start each season with 20 scheduled days off, though they normally lose a few to make up rainouts. But that means by the time the Twins play 10 games, they already will have used one-fourth of their allotment of time off for the season. And that’s assuming their games are played as scheduled.
Might that mean, for instance, that they take fewer pitchers north? Those things still are being discussed, Baldelli said, though his preference is to keep the entire five-man starting rotation with the team, even if some pitch out of the bullpen at first.
“It’s going to be a challenge that we will work through,” Baldelli said. “We’ll be OK, but it’s still a challenge and something we need to get ahead of.”
• Polanco returned to Fort Myers on Sunday after traveling to the Dominican Republic for three days on a personal matter. He took batting practice and a session of ground balls, and appeared ready to return to action Monday.
• Outfielder Alex Kirilloff, one of the Twins’ highest-rated prospects, was added to Sunday’s lineup despite being assigned to minor league camp a week ago, and he responded with three singles, a stolen base and an RBI. “He puts competitive swings on pitches that are difficult to even put in play, and he’s able to do positive things with them,” Baldelli said. “He’s an impressive young man.”
In addition to Berrios, the Twins will use most of their regular-season bullpen against the Red Sox at home on Monday, including Taylor Rogers and Blake Parker.