A typical spring training camp normally starts with several days of increasingly intense workouts, then a week or so of live batting practice, leading up to the start of the exhibition season.
The Twins’ hurry-up summer camp is already roaring past those mileposts.
Only four days into camp and one turn on the mound for most key pitchers, manager Rocco Baldelli said, the Twins will hold a lighter “regroup and recharge” workout Tuesday, then start actual gameplay, albeit only against each other. Baldelli plans to stage the first intrasquad game of camp Wednesday, and then switch to a more formal dress-rehearsal mode Thursday.
“Hopefully we’ll even make that one more like a real game environment, with maybe some of the bells and whistles in the stadium,” Baldelli said. “That will be good for all of our guys.”
Music will play, perhaps even walk-up music, as hitters come to the plate, and those not a part of the game will be stationed in the stands behind the dugout, as they will during the regular season. It might sound like a small thing, but the manager believes trying to make these games, and the regular-season games as well, feel like they do in a normal season is helpful
“It keeps everyone’s attention, helps guys stay locked in,” Baldelli said. “We’ve talked about it a lot. There is a great energy when you show up to the ballpark and it’s full of fans and the smells, and everything around you heightens the enthusiasm, even for us. So we’re going to try to do that.”
He’s just not sure how. The Twins are consulting with other teams to brainstorm ideas about lessening the empty-stadium feeling, but have yet to settle on anything in particular. They might experiment with some ideas during camp, he said.
Meanwhile, Baldelli is happy with what he has seen on the field so far, saying: “Our guys have given us really good, full workouts. Pushed themselves, their legs. They’ve been throwing the ball and probably getting more [work] in than they have in a long time. They’ve gotten plenty of swings.”
Hill in rotation right away?
Rich Hill threw four simulated innings Monday, and so impressed Baldelli, the manager repeated his impression that the 40-year-old lefthander could open the season on the active roster, less than 10 months after undergoing elbow surgery. And if Hill is healthy, he won’t be eased in through the bullpen an inning at a time, either.
“If Rich is feeling good and ready to go, we can see him in our rotation to start the season,” Baldelli said. “But we still have some time and we really want to see how [the starting pitchers] are throwing the ball and how they feel.”
There’s not much doubt about how Hill feels, ever. Baldelli noted the 15-year veteran’s occasional profanity-laced outburst on the mound.
“It’s fun to watch him out there throw in a few expletives, getting upset when he doesn’t make the pitch he wants to make,” Baldelli said. “He’s out there trying to do a good job, not just get a little work in.”
The work was plenty impressive, Baldell said.
“He came in and looked really good. He was already making adjustments, a couple of things and really locking in, location-wise,” Baldelli said. “The stuff was good. Just a really good first day. A lot of guys that are coming in are not built up to that point, but he’s one of the guys that is built up, because of all the work he put in” to recover from surgery.
Relieving has its advantages
With only 18 more days until the Twins’ opener, Taylor Rogers said, now more than ever, it’s nice to be a relief pitcher. “It’s certainly safe to say us relievers are in a better spot. You only have to get to about 30 pitches and you can be ready for a season,” the closer said.
In a normal camp, Rogers said, he might be working on a new pitch or tinkering with the weakest part of his repertoire. But not with a 60-game season coming up.
“I’ve got a couple things we’re going to be tweaking with [pitching coach Wes Johnson] in the next couple of weeks. Try to make the slider sharper, or the fastball move a little better,” Rogers said. “Obviously you want to tweak your weaknesses. But with this year’s structure, let’s polish up our strengths and get really good at them, and see what that can do for us for 60 games.”