ARLINGTON, TEXAS – Seven weeks after suffering an oblique injury, Willians Astudillo homered in his first at-bat back on a baseball diamond. And then he did something really amazing: He walked.
Yes, the popular Twins catcher and utility man needed only two pitches to make an impact for Class AA Pensacola, where he was sent on a rehabilitation assignment Thursday. Batting between former first-round picks Alex Kirilloff and Royce Lewis, Astudillo took a ball, then turned on a pitch over the plate and lined it into the left-field seats at Admiral Fetterman Field.
Shell-shocked.— Pensacola Blue Wahoos (@BlueWahoosBBall) August 16, 2019
Two innings later, Astudillo watched four pitches go by, something he has done only four times in his 239 career plate appearances for the Twins.
Astudillo ran into the wall down the first-base line while playing right field June 25, then aggravated his sore left oblique while swinging the following day. He was placed on the injured list during a lengthy healing process.
The rehab process might take awhile, too, Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said, because of the position he plays.
“We’re going to focus on the catching first, and kind of get his legs under him before anything else,” Baldelli said. “He’ll get to swing a little bit and see some pitching, but I really do think the catching aspect comes first.”
Beating the heat in 2020
It’s not only Twins fans who endure weather extremes while attending games and wonder, “Why didn’t they put a roof on this place?”
But the Rangers did something about it. Looming just beyond the right-field wall, sandwiched more or less between the Rangers’ current park and the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium, the skeleton of Globe Life Field, complete with a retractable roof and enormous air conditioners, is being filled out in preparation for a 2020 grand opening.
That’ll make the Twins’ visit here, scheduled for next July 17-19, considerably more pleasant. Until then, though, the Twins and Rangers are playing in August heat that is expected to surpass 100 degrees each of the next three days.
“Yeah, it’s awful,” said Mitch Garver, who likely will wear catcher’s gear in two of them. “We’ve all done it. But it’s not much fun.”
Baldelli plans to limit his players’ time on the field over the weekend, though the Twins did take batting practice Thursday, and the infielders even undertook an extended set of defensive drills.
Pranks a lot
The Twins manager said he had nothing to do with a prank played by Rays staff members on Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash. On the list of Rays’ “nicknames” on the back of uniforms for next week’s Players Weekend event, Cash’s chosen name was “Rocco’s Seat Warmer,” a joking reference that Baldelli might someday return to Tampa Bay, where he worked for Cash the past four seasons, to take his old boss’ job.
“I texted him and everybody over there — ‘What is wrong with him? What is wrong with that guy?’ ” Baldelli joked about Cash.
The pair played pranks on each other during spring training, but reports in St. Petersburg suggest that this prank was the work of Cash’s staff. “I don’t know where that came from,” Cash told reporters, laughing as he said it. “I won’t be wearing it, so I’m not overly concerned.”
• Randy Dobnak, the rookie righthander who pitched four scoreless innings in his MLB debut last Friday, was optioned back to Class AAA Rochester so the Twins could activate starter Michael Pineda.
• Nelson Cruz hit again in the batting cage, and could take batting practice on the field this weekend, Baldelli said, as he prepares to return from a ruptured ligament in his left wrist next week.
• Two Class AA relief appearances by starter Brusdar Graterol this week has increased speculation that the Twins’ top pitching prospect could join the major league bullpen sometime this season. “As far as exactly what the plan is with him, I couldn’t tell you at this moment,” Baldelli said of the 20-year-old righthander, who owns a 1.78 ERA in 50⅓ innings at Pensacola this year. “Obviously he’s a really good young arm and there’s a lot of promise there. He’s a guy who has tremendous stuff and tremendous ability. He’s got big-league ability.”