ANAHEIM, CALIF. – The Twins thought they had escaped the chilly Minnesota weather and a COVID scare to embrace the warm and worry-free West Coast vibes Friday.
Not so much.
Chaos and confusion again enveloped the Twins ahead of batting practice for the series opener at the Los Angeles Angels. Another positive test threw the organization back into a contact-tracing frenzy, which ultimately sent a handful of people back to the hotel as a precaution. While the game went on as scheduled, as the positive was from among the staff ranks, the four-hour flight from Minneapolis to SoCal cast some concern about the immediate future.
Shortstop Andrelton Simmons contracted COVID-19 late this past Tuesday night and entered the COVID-19 injury list as part of his 10-day quarantine. That was the Twins' first in-season case, though several other MLB teams have had to reschedule games this season and last because of too many positive results.
Manger Rocco Baldelli said Friday he and one other staff member experienced a false positive result ahead of Thursday's game at Target Field. "This is not something that is completely settled," Baldelli said. "More power to our players who are continually locking in and getting ready for a game when there's a lot going on around them."
The Twins declined to share more detail about the current COVID situation on the team, as it's still a bit nebulous. The best case is this is just another false positive. The worst case would be the start of a teamwide outbreak that could cut the California road trip short.
Not quite 85% of the Twins' tier-one personnel, which includes those traveling, received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine April 8. But it takes about two weeks from that date for the shot to take full effect. The Angels have already reached the 85% threshold that allows for loosened COVID-19 protocols.
"It's a constant reminder for all of our guys to take care of everything," Baldelli said. "It can be tiresome. No one wants to be talking about this or dealing with this. It can be exhausting if you let it be. We just have to continue to just be vigilant and take care of our business."
Buxton still sidelined
Center fielder Byron Buxton last played Tuesday after enduring a mild hamstring strain. While he went through a full workout during batting practice Friday, he wasn't in the starting lineup.
Baldelli said the injury has lingered a bit longer than expected, as the injury originally appeared to be just cramping.
"But here's the thing: We're talking about a center fielder. We're talking about a guy that runs like a gazelle," Baldelli said. "… To run like Buck, it's impossible to do if you have a hamstring that's not cooperating."
Baldelli still demurred about whether Buxton, who was batting .469 heading into Friday's game, would need to head to the injured list.
"We're probably right on like the borderline of what to really do, in which direction to go in," Baldelli said. "… I judge Buck sometimes by if he's smiling or not, believe it or not, and he actually had a pretty good face on [Friday]. He looked good."
Meanwhile, Josh Donaldson returned to the starting lineup after sitting out with a hamstring strain. He made his debut from two weeks on the injured list also with a hamstring strain this past Wednesday but sat out Thursday.
"This is actually something that JD's done at different points in his career," Baldelli said. "… Most days going forward, he will be available. But there are going to be days, especially probably early this year, where he may not be available. Once his legs are in that type of game shape that we're shooting for, he'll be available to do anything."
Lewis Thorpe made his season debut Friday. The lefthanded Australian joined the roster despite Randy Dobnak also being an option. Baldelli said that's because Dobnak recently pitched in relief on Tuesday.
"He threw 38 pitches and has two days off," Baldelli said. "… He'll definitely play a role this series at some point. But Thorpey came into camp really in a great spot. His offseason was spent very, very well, and he's continued to throw the ball well and get his work in at the alternate training site."