ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. – Designated hitter Nelson Cruz left the Twins on Saturday to play two games for Class A Fort Myers as part of a minor league rehabilitation assignment.
If all goes well, Cruz could be activated from the injured list in time to face the Indians on Tuesday when the Twins visit Progressive Field for a three-game series.
Fort Myers played at the Lakeland Flying Tigers on Saturday, about an hour drive from St. Petersburg.
Cruz, batting .270 with seven homers and 22 RBI in 35 games, hasn’t played since May 12 because of a strained left wrist. He could have returned to action sooner and managed the pain, but the Twins decided to wait until he was pain-free before activating him from the injured list.
Cruz hit on the field before Friday’s game with no problems, leading to the decision to get him some at-bats before he’s activated.
“Nellie, he’s doing very well,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “I think anyone that had a chance to watch him hit [Friday] can tell that he’s feeling really good.”
Luis Arraez has hit .375 since being called up to replace Cruz on the roster, so the offense has chugged along without the veteran slugger. But Arraez could be the one sent down when either Cruz or catcher Mitch Garver is activated from the IL over the next few days. Garver played in three games for Class AA Pensacola.
Jake Odorizzi’s turn in the rotation did not fall during the Twins visit to Tropicana Field last season, so his start on Sunday will be the first time he’s pitched here since being traded to the Twins during spring training of 2018.
“I think maybe that was a good thing because I was exhausted last year just from the three days we were here,” Odorizzi said.
So it shouldn’t be an emotional return for Odorizzi, who pitched for the Rays from 2013-17. Another significant reason is that the roster has turned over in just two seasons. Only a handful of players remain from the 2017 team, such as Blake Snell and Kevin Kiermaier. Odorizzi has spent more time catching up with the trainer and clubhouse staff than former teammates.
Odorizzi is 21-19 with a 3.38 ERA in 66 career games at Tropicana Field, and it remains one of his favorite places to pitch because the backstop makes it feel like the catcher is closer than he is really. He returns as the American League ERA leader, throwing a fastball that’s averaging a career-high 92.7 mph and a curveball he’s worked more into his arsenal.
He’s ready to show the Rays that he’s evolved as a pitcher, but there’s not many of them left who remember the old version.
“It’s all good,” Odorizzi said. “It’s just another game we need to win.”
Trop isn’t kind to Sano
Miguel Sano thought the ball he hit to right field in the seventh inning was a home run, but it hit high off the wall for an RBI double. He thought the ball he hit down the left-field line on Friday was headed out, but it hit the catwalk and fell back toward the infield, where it was caught for an out.
And there was the game in 2015 during which Sano belted what looked to be prodigious home run to left-center that stuck the catwalk and fell to the field for a ground-rule double.
Sano has four homers in 11 games at Tropicana Field, but he feels he should a few more.
“I don’t like it very much,” Sano said of the stadium.
Eddie Rosario overheard the conversation and couldn’t resist.
“No power,” he said to Sano.