Rocco Baldelli has a very easy explanation why the Twins haven't been very productive at the plate during spring training.
"What I'm looking for is for them to save all of the hits and runs for the season," the Twins manager said from Bradenton, Fla., after Tuesday's 1-0 loss to the Pirates. "That's what I am pulling for."
He was joking — kind of — but it was a way to bring some levity to the Twins' dire hitting so far in Florida. The team's batting average is .213, the worst among Grapefruit League teams. Through 21 games, they've scored just 75 runs.
Shut out three times, the Twins have scored two runs or fewer 12 times. It's been an abnormally dry run for the Bomba Squad.
"If you look up and down, there's not a lot of guys that are really killing it," said outfielder Jake Cave, who is batting .143. "There's [veteran] guys like that that aren't hitting the way they usually do in spring training, and I think they're going to be just fine.
"Obviously you would like to get a little momentum rolling going into the season, but it's spring training, and there's a lot of guys on the team out there that know that their spots are solidified, and they want to go out, and they just want to make sure their bodies are healthy, and Day 1 turn into a new guy."
Baldelli added he isn't really concerned about how well the team is or isn't hitting right now. He's more focused on improvement.
"What we're looking for is guys going up there, seeing the ball better and better, taking better at-bats and swings, making life difficult for the opposing pitcher and hitting balls hard," Baldelli said. "Our guys are all over the spectrum at different points in the spring, but as we get closer to Opening Day, it's about really locking in and taking advantage of the at-bats that you get and getting guys as ready to go as we possibly can."
Ryan Jeffers is batting .208, Byron Buxton .115, Miguel Sano .094, Max Kepler .067 and Andrelton Simmons .059. Kepler hasn't had a hit since March 3, going 0-for-24 since.
"Kep's had some good at-bats … he's put good swings on the ball," Baldelli said. "The balls he has hit hard, he's probably not getting much out of it right now result-wise, but I think he's looked fine. He's gone out there, I think he's swung at strikes … I'm pretty sure these results are going to be coming for Kep."
The practical jokes between Baldelli and Pirates manager Derek Shelton, Baldelli's former bench coach, continued Tuesday.
In Bradenton on Tuesday the Pirates scoreboard had an old photo of Baldelli sporting a near-horseshoe mustache with the caption "2-time MLB Most Handsome Manager Award Winner."
"That was from mustache night at the Charlotte Stone Crabs vs. a Florida State League affiliate, division rival of some kind," Baldelli explained. "A handful of guys on the team that I was playing on grew some nice mustaches, and I think every fan with a lovely mustache actually got free entry to the ballpark."
Last week, when the Pirates visited Fort Myers, the Twins played videos of Shelton being ejected from a game. There are two more spring training showdowns before the Pirates visit Target Field next month in the regular season.
"He's got plenty of time for that, so I figured he was on the internet shuffling around all night," Baldelli said of how the mustache picture came to be. "But yeah, it's fine. Again, you have to let guys have their fun. And we'll see what happens in the future."
In addition to optioning top outfield prospect Alex Kirilloff, the Twins reassigned several other players Tuesday.
Lefthanded pitcher Charlie Barnes, catcher Caleb Hamilton, righthanded pitcher Griffin Jax, outfielder Trevor Larnach and infielder Royce Lewis all went to the minor league camp.
Lewis had surgery for a torn right ACL in February and will miss the 2021 season.
There are 43 players in major league camp, including 22 pitchers.
This article was written using the television broadcast and video interviews before and/or after the game.