FORT MYERS, FLA. – The Twins’ delegation making the whirlwind trip to Saturday’s exhibition in the Dominican Republic included 24 players out of the 62 in major league camp, and another half-dozen minor leaguers. Postgame, they headed immediately to the Santo Domingo airport for the 1,450-mile flight back to southwest Florida.
The Twins staying home will take care of Sunday’s exhibition, with a 5-mile trip east to face their Daniels Parkway rivals, the Boston Red Sox.
When this weekend disturbance in manager Rocco Baldelli’s plans for a low-stress spring training has ended, a group of St. Louis Cardinals will visit Hammond Stadium on Monday for the start of the last two weeks of major league exhibitions.
As much as spring training can drag, time’s a-wastin’, and Byron Buxton remains on a schedule that would not have him in a game until the final week in Florida.
Considering the cautious approach this outfit takes to recovery, and Buxton’s desire to start a new season at 100% fitness, my speculation is there’s an even chance he won’t be in center field when the season starts March 26 (yes, that soon) at Oakland.
That likely would put both Jake Cave and LaMonte Wade Jr. on the Opening Day roster. What few would want it to mean is Cave again is making too many mistakes in center, and Wade doesn’t have the range for center, and Max Kepler again has to move from right field (very good) to center (just OK).
Either way, Buxton ready or not, the Twins figure to open with four true outfielders, as Marwin Gonzalez rebounds from knee surgery and can’t be classified as the main spare.
Which means: Our slashing, chubby-guys-can-run hero, Willians Astudillo, is a long shot to be on the Twins’ opening 26, even as Baldelli would much prefer to have him.
The extra roster spot in 2020 can’t save him, with the Twins having only one scheduled day off in the first two weeks and set to have 13 pitchers.
That leaves 13 position players: C-Mitch Garver, Alex Avila. 1B-Miguel Sano. IF-Luis Arraez, Jorge Polanco, Josh Donaldson, Ehire Adrianza, Gonzalez. DH-Nelson Cruz. OF-Eddie Rosario, Kepler, Cave, Buxton (or Wade).
Which means no Willians to start the season. Yes, I’m writing that through tears.
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• If Buxton is ready, I’d take Wade’s on-base skills over Cave’s aggressive swinging to be the No. 4 outfielder. That’s probably not the Twins’ view.
• It’s a race of outfielders to get to big leagues first — Trevor Larnach or Alex Kirilloff — and Larnach might have put a nose in front.
• Meantime, Eddie Rosario was 0-for-3 Saturday and is hitting a well-earned .050 this spring.