Josh Donaldson’s bat is in postseason shape, as he proved by battering batting-practice baseballs around Target Field on Monday. The condition of his sore calf, however, isn’t quite as clear.
Donaldson did some sidestepping drills and stop-and-starts on the turf during the Twins’ workout with head athletic trainer Michael Salazar watching, and manager Rocco Baldelli said the former MVP’s status for Game 1 on Tuesday remains uncertain.
Playoff rosters must be turned in by 11 a.m., and Baldelli said the decision might be made a few minutes before then.
“It was the first time [since he was injured Friday] that we’ve had Josh out there, moving around,” Baldelli said. “We’re going to hold off on making any calls.”
Same goes for Byron Buxton, though the center fielder caught fly balls Monday, a positive sign for someone who showed mild concussion symptoms two days earlier. Buxton also took some swings in the batting cage.
The Twins could activate outfielder Alex Kirilloff, their first-round pick (15th overall) in 2016. The 22-year-old has battled injuries during his brief career, and played at Class AA last season. If Donaldson can’t play, Marwin Gonzalez would replace him at third; if Buxton can’t go, the Twins would need a spare outfielder.
Kirilloff, if promoted, would be making his major league debut in the playoffs. The Twins had good luck with another young outfielder, Brent Rooker, this season before Rooker broke an arm.
Faces in the ‘crowd’
Dusty Baker was distracted while his players took batting practice Monday. Those giant heads behind home plate, all the Twins greats “watching” the game? A lot of them are friends of his.
“I saw them in the stands. Lyman Bostock, good friend of mine. Disco Dan Ford, Chili Davis. Jacque Jones played for me,” said Baker, who spent several minutes during the Astros’ workout examining those cardboard faces. “Torii Hunter, Dan Gladden, Mike Cuddyer. I even saw Zoilo Versalles, who I played with on the Braves, and it brought back a whole bunch of memories.”
Baker, 71, played for 18 seasons and has managed for 23, yet he had never set foot in Target Field before Monday. So before the Astros’ workout, Baker walked around the stadium, and even ventured outside to look at the statues that ring the ballpark.
“Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva, Rod Carew, these are guys I grew up idolizing,” said Baker, who on Tuesday will lead his fifth different team into the playoffs. “There’s a great tradition here. I’ve always enjoyed coming to Minnesota, and I’m really enjoying this ballpark.”
The major leagues’ oldest manager will compete against the youngest this week, and though they have only met briefly a couple of times, Baldelli — who was 11 when Baker managed his first team, the 1993 Giants — said he knows all about his opposition.
“You’d be hard-pressed to find a guy that gets complimented as much as Dusty Baker by the people that have spent time around him,” Baldelli said. “Homer Bailey told me during the season, ‘I don’t know what it is, but he makes everybody feel like you’re going to go out there and you’re going to win that ballgame that day.’’
The Twins will face a semi-familiar face in Tuesday’s opener: Zack Grienke, who has started 20 games over his career against the Twins. But only five of those starts have come in the past decade, and just one, a 5-0 loss while with Arizona in 2018, is more recent than 2014.
“Greinke is as tough as they come,” said Baldelli, who went 1-for-3 against the veteran righthander in their only meeting on the field, in 2004. “Can do some really funny things with the baseball, and play tricks in ways you don’t normally see. I’ve always enjoyed watching him pitch.”
Greinke skipped the Astros’ optional workout Monday in order to focus on his start, his 17th in the postseason with four different teams. Grienke is 3-6 with a 4.21 ERA in those games.
The more the merrier
Count Nelson Cruz as a passionate advocate for the 16-team expanded playoffs.
“It’s incredible. Imagine if we played with fans, even the games from [Sunday], how crazy that would be,” Cruz said. “It was really exciting just to keep up with every scoreboard situation. Imagine the fans being involved in that, how electric it would be. I love it. It’s the best thing MLB can do to help [increase] interest in the game. Fans would be pulling for every game [as opposed to] one wild card, and most of the teams out.”
But if you’re a first-place team over a 162-game season, would you want to risk being bounced in a lightning-quick best-of-three series?
“It’s equal for everybody,” Cruz said. “You’ve got to play well. You start fresh knowing [that you] won that many games for a reason.”
• The Twins were held without a home run by the Reds over the weekend, the first time since Sept. 27-29, 2018 that they had not hit a home run in three straight games. “We were saving them for the playoffs, because we’d clinched already,” Miguel Sano said.