Rich Hill has spent almost as much time lately lobbying for his return to the mound as he has demonstrating that he is ready for it. Looks like he will get his chance during this homestand.
Hill threw 60 pitches against Twins extra players at CHS Field in St. Paul on Friday, “and felt great,” said Derek Falvey, the Twins president of baseball operations. “Looked great, felt great, threw the ball well. … He wants to be on the mound.”
The 40-year-old lefthander, who shut out St. Louis on two hits for five innings in his Twins debut July 29 — ironically, neither Hill nor the Cardinals have played since — felt fatigue in his left shoulder a day later, and the Twins have insisted that they proceed slowly with his return. But Friday’s outing may have convinced them.
“I think we can have him built up to where he can make start this [upcoming] week,” likely when the Brewers are at Target Field from Aug. 18-20, Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “It’s very encouraging.”
Not as encouraging
While Hill likely will return to action in the next week, there is far more uncertainty about the Twins’ two other veterans on the injured list.
Third baseman Josh Donaldson, who has missed two weeks because of a calf strain, “had a good day [Wednesday] from a rehab standpoint,” Falvey said, but there remains no timetable for his return. “Initially, we were hopeful it was kind of simple, hoping that giving him a couple of days would make him feel a little bit better.”
But the calf was still sore earlier this week, and “we’re going to be careful,” Falvey said.
As for righthander Homer Bailey, on the IL because of biceps tendinitis since his debut the day before Hill’s, “we’re just letting everything calm down and we’re progressing him back,” Falvey said, though it sounds unlikely he will pitch before the team leaves town on Friday.
Bailey threw from 90 feet on Thursday, and “we’ll see how his body comes back as the week goes on,” Baldelli said.
Meanwhile, rookie reliever Cody Stashak has been battling inflammation in his back for a few weeks, Falvey said, pitching seven innings so far, “and there were days when it was a little tight,” making him unable to pitch on consecutive days, as the Twins had hoped. “We just felt like with him, you don’t want to chase it all year. … Hopefully it’s a short period here.”
Infielder Ildemaro Vargas arrived and cleared MLB virus precautions, and was excited to begin playing for his new team. He’s friends with fellow Venezuelans Ehire Adrianza and Luis Arraez — each of whom he might take some playing time from — and is a former winter-ball teammate of catcher Alex Avila.
“Once I walked into the clubhouse, I felt welcome right away,” said the 29-year-old Vargas, who was acquired from Arizona this week. Former Diamondbacks teammate Eduardo Escobar, a Twins infielder from 2012 to 2018, “told me a lot about the chemistry here in the clubhouse.”
Vargas, a .257 hitter in his four-year major league career, is a utility player, but said his favorite position is second base, where he has appeared in 56 of his 126 career games in Arizona.