Update: Luis Arraez is on the roster for the American League Divisional Series. Full story coming soon.
NEW YORK – The drizzle had slackened to a mist, about as close to baseball weather as it was going to get Thursday. The Yankee Stadium grounds crew dragged the infield tarp into the outfield, and out of the dugout walked the biggest question mark on the Twins roster.
And “on the Twins roster” is looking more likely now.
Rookie Luis Arraez, five days removed from being driven off in a cart, was back on the field for a half hour Thursday, fielding ground balls, turning double plays and testing the right ankle that threatened to sideline the Twins’ best on-base threat.
“He’s healed really well, probably faster than anyone anticipated,” manager Rocco Baldelli said, and that was before Arraez demonstrated that progress on the field. “We were probably sitting around a few days ago saying we’re not sure this guy is going to be able to play, just flat-out. He’s moving around very well, and now we have a good discussion” about his roster spot.
Bench coach Derek Shelton, head athletic trainer Tony Leo and General Manager Thad Levine, among the many interested parties, watched Arraez move around confidently on the right ankle he sprained Saturday at Kansas City during a collision with Willians Astudillo as the two players circled under a popup.
“We tried to put him through all the iterations of defense at second base. He was taking ground balls with [Miguel] Sano at third base and [advance scout] Frankie Padulo at first,” Levine said. “[Arraez] walked off the field with a smile on his face, and I think that’s a huge indicator.”
The Twins will turn in their AL Division Series roster at 9 a.m. Friday, though certainly only after gauging Arraez’s second-day condition. The team has to decide how many pitchers, and which ones, to carry, and perhaps whether backup infielder Ehire Adrianza’s oblique injury will allow him to play. Max Kepler and Marwin Gonzalez expressed confidence that their own injuries won’t prevent them from playing.
“I’m not 110 percent, but this is the playoffs,” said Kepler, who has played only twice since Sept. 8 due to a lingering discomfort near his left shoulder. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, [so I’m] going to go out there and get after it.”
Ignoring the history
The fact that the Twins have lost 13 consecutive postseason games, with 10 of those to the Yankees, is much discussed in New York, the players have noticed. It’s no surprise that they consider the notion that the streak has an effect on this series to be ridiculous.
“I was trying to figure out how to get a higher ACT score to get into college the last time these teams played” in a Division Series in 2010, Twins closer Taylor Rogers said.
Mitch Garver, too, ridiculed the Yankees’ status as overwhelming favorites. In fact, the catcher said, it works to his team’s advantage.
“We’ve got nothing to lose. For real. Are you kidding, we win 100 games and nobody thinks we can win? It’s nuts,” Garver said. The Yankees “are a good team. A great team. But they’re supposed to win. They’re carrying that around, it’s lose-lose. They either just do what they’re supposed to, or they hear about it forever.”
And those 10 consecutive postseason losses?
“I don’t know, man — they won what, two more games than we did?” Garver said of the Yankees’ 103-win season, compared to the Twins’ 101 wins. “Sure seems like that has more relevance than what happened 10 years ago or whenever.”
Taking it slow
Jake Cave was watching Tuesday night’s NL wild-card game when Brewers right fielder Trent Grisham overran Juan Soto’s bases-loaded single, enabling the Nationals to score the go-ahead run. He immediately empathized with his fellow outfielder.
“One hundred percent. Anybody who has been on a big-league field knows what it’s like to make a mistake and be criticized for it,” Cave said. “I feel for the guy. He came in a little too hard, the ball was hit harder than he thought, he was in a hurry to get there, the ball shot off to the side a little bit, and there he is. It’s awful.”
It will be on his mind in Yankee Stadium, too, “not that specific play, but [the need to] relax. Relax. Just relax,” Cave said. “It’s not easy. There’s a lot of pressure in the postseason, but things like that happen every year. You have to remind yourself, it’s another game. Don’t get sped up.”
Yankees set rotation
Unlike the Twins, the Yankees revealed their starting pitchers for the series’ first three games, and they are as expected. Lefthander James Paxton goes Friday, followed by two righthanders, Masahiro Tanaka in Game 2 and Luis Severino in Monday’s Game 3 at Target Field.
One pitcher the Twins will not see is 39-year-old CC Sabathia. The lefthander, who is retiring after the season, will not be included on the New York roster because of a sore pitching shoulder.