3 Questions Left to Be Answered Before the Playoffs
Image courtesy of © Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports1. Can the line-up get healthy?
Two of Minnesota’s scheduled regulars, Mitch Garver and Luis Arraez, are both on the injured list. The good news is Garver has been getting at-bats and working behind the plate at the team’s alternate training site in St. Paul. Rocco Baldelli told the media that Garver could join the team on the road trip if everything continues to go well. Ryan Jeffers has done more than hold his own with Garver out as his pitch framing has been outstanding and his has a .819 OPS.
Arraez has been fighting with knee issues that date all the way back to spring training. He has been playing through the issue and this is the first time he went on the injured list this season. He can’t come off the IL until September 19 which will give him a little over a week to get ready for the playoffs. Marwin Gonzalez and Ehire Adrianza can fill-in at second but both have been struggling offensively.
2. How will the team line-up the rotation for the first round?
It’s clear that Kenta Maeda will be starting in Minnesota’s first game of the playoffs. He’s been the best starting pitcher on the staff, and he has plenty of playoff experience from his time with the Dodgers. He’s currently projected to start on Thursday to close out the White Sox series and then he should get one more start before the regular season concludes.
Outside of Maeda, it seems likely for the Twins to give Jose Berrios the nod in the second game of the playoffs. He had a shaky start to the season, but he seems to be getting back to form as of late. In his last four starts, he has held batters to a .183 BA and he has struck out 31 in 22 2/3 innings. He has been trending in the right direction and hopefully he is peaking at the right time.
The third spot in the playoff rotation isn’t as clear, but it might be Michael Pineda’s spot to lose at this point. Randy Dobnak was terrific to start the year, but his last start was a little concerning as he hit two batters and allowed five runs on only two hits in one inning. Rich Hill has seen his strikeout totals increase in each of his last two starts, but he has yet to pitch more than five innings. Jake Odorizzi is coming back from injury and the team might not trust him in a winner-take-all game.
3. What’s the bullpen pecking order?
Even with some recent struggles, Minnesota’s bullpen was outstanding to start the season. However, managing a bullpen in the postseason can be a little trickier. Baldelli seems to be set on Taylor Rogers being used in the closer role even though he has given up 21 hits in 16 1/3 innings. Sergio Romo and Tyler Clippard continue to get work in the late innings.
Tyler Duffey might be the bullpen’s best pitcher and Baldelli has show flexibility to use Duffey in a variety of situations. Matt Wisler has been outstanding in nearly every role he has been given. Jorge Alcala has shown some of the flame throwing ability that made him one of the team’s top pitching prospects. There could also be some bullpen spots for starters that don’t make the playoff rotation. This could add even more depth to an already strong relief core.
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