He was all but guaranteed a roster spot as spring training opened, but the reality of opening the season as a major leaguer for the first time still thrilled Jorge Polanco.
“I’ve been working for years to be a starter one day, and now I’ve made the team. It’s very special. I called my family and said, ‘I’m on the team,’ and they celebrated,” Polanco said. “I’m still the same person, but now I just have to work hard every day to keep the job.”
It’s harder work than he might know. When the 23-year-old takes the field Monday, he will become the Twins’ 11th different Opening Day shortstop in the past 12 years, an amazing list that doesn’t even take into account the seven other shortstops who manned the position somewhat regularly during that span. Only Pedro Florimon, who held the job in 2013 and ’14, has begun two seasons as the Twins shortstop in that time.
Making his status potentially more awkward for Polanco is that his two immediate predecessors, Danny Santana (2015) and Eduardo Escobar (2016) remain on the Twins roster as utility players. But “I feel more comfortable this year” at the position, Polanco said.
So what will it feel like to line up with his teammates during Monday’s ceremonies? “It’s going to be big,” he said. “I don’t know how I’ll feel, but it’ll be very special. I’ll remember it.”
Avoid the ‘deep hole’
The Twins have lost on Opening Day eight consecutive times. They haven’t won a home opener since 2011. They opened the 2015 season, Paul Molitor’s first as manager, by losing six of their first seven, and last year’s start, 0-9, was somehow worse.
It’s fair to say those numbers have been mentioned in the Twins clubhouse this week.
“There’s going to be a lot of eyes on us, how we get off and how we respond to failure early. But we are better prepared,” second baseman Brian Dozier vowed before Sunday’s workout. “We got into a deep hole that we couldn’t get out of. It’s essential to get off to a good start.”
The Twins felt they had a good chance last year, but an unpredictable weather pattern in Baltimore caused Ervin Santana to pitch only two innings before a long rain delay. Rain is in the forecast Monday at Target Field, too, but Santana said he is confident this year will go better than last.
• Molitor wouldn’t reveal his starting lineup Sunday, deferring because “there’s a few people I want to talk to, just to make sure everybody knows how we’re going forward.” But all four lefthanders in his regular lineup will face Kansas City lefty Danny Duffy, he said.
• The Twins officially completed their roster Sunday by placing lefthander Glen Perkins on the 60-day disabled list, which will keep him out of action until at least June, and sending designated hitter Kennys Vargas to Class AAA Rochester to start the season. Infielder Ehire Adrianza and lefthander Ryan O’Rourke, who stayed in Fort Myers, were placed on the 10-day disabled list.
• Rookie lefthander Adalberto Mejia, who will start one of the Twins’ games in Chicago against the White Sox this weekend, gave up four hits and a run in a Class AA game Sunday in Fort Myers. Mejia, who was caught by Twins backup catcher Chris Gimenez, struck out six.