Meanwhile, in St. Paul...
Image courtesy of Seth Stohs, Twins DailyThe St. Paul Saints are the defending champions of the American Association. However, they are starting their 2020 season by playing their home games in Sioux Falls.
The Twins were able to use the Saints’ home ballpark, beautiful CHS Field, for their ‘taxi squad’, the players in the 60-player pool not on the active roster. The group is far enough away and in a separate location to keep the number of people in a stadium at any given time at a minimum. The group is close enough to Target Field that if the Twins have an injury or a positive COVID test, they can easily promote a player from this group to help out during the season without shipping him on a plane across the country. .
On Sunday, a day after he addressed the group at Target Field, Rocco Baldelli traveled across the Mississippi River to briefly address the group of players who make up the taxi squad, or the remainder of the 60-man player pool not on the active roster.
Be ready. You never know.
Later on Sunday night, Baldelli told media, “The talk went very well. I think the message is that our group in St. Paul is going to be a huge part of our season. (That) is important to know. We know the situation we’re in. We know that these are uncertain times. We also know that if we are playing in September, or hopefully even after that in October, there’s going to be one or more or many of those players on our team, and potentially contributing in a big way.”
He continued, “There’s no way to ever know who those guys are going to be. But I would bet on that happening. We always want to think that things are going to work out in an optimal way. Everyone’s always going to be healthy. Everyone’s always going to perform. We hope for that. But we also know that we’re always going to have to adjust and part of our adjustments is going to be looking at our group in St. Paul, calling those names, bringing those guys in. And not just having them there as bystanders. Not just there as a support group, but actually counting on them for production and helping us win.”
Baldelli noted that during this “Summer Camp” there will likely be around 20 players working out in St. Paul. That number is subject to change from day to day with guys occasionally spending time at Target Field. When the Twins regular season begins, they will have a 30-player active roster, so the others on the 60-player roster will be in St. Paul.
The group was told not to be surprised if five to ten of them get MLB time this season. They were also told not to be surprised if two or three of them wind up starting games in the playoffs in the Twins make it.
And like the big leaguers, they were told to follow the protocols presented to them. Follow them for yourself. Follow them for your teammates. Follow them because “we” believe that this is a special team and a special year, a year that anything, including the World Series championship can happen.
Baldelli said later on Sunday, “They’ll be over there working on different things. It mainly will be just workouts because it’s hard to do much else, play competitive games and such with a number like that.”
JP Martinez is leading the group in St. Paul. Martinez was drafted by the Twins in 2004 and spent four seasons pitching in the system, reaching AAA. He rejoined the organization as a pitching coach at the facilities in Ft. Myers. He spent a season as pitching coach in Cedar Rapids. Last year, he became the assistant minor league pitching coordinator, a role he really enjoyed. With Pete Maki moving up to the big league bullpen coach job for the 2020 season, Martinez is going to be given a lot of responsibility.
Baldelli said, “JP will be organizing and coordinating the workouts. We’ll be talking to him a lot. We already have to get everything lined up. I will also note that it will not be a situation where we hand the schedule over to them and ask JP to simply follow a schedule. They have to make it work. Every day you’ll have to make a with the group that you have. The group is going to change obviously when we’ve got guys here with us. So JP’s going to be, not just following what we send over. When I say organizing, he’s truly going to be organizing and coordinating.”
But Martinez certainly isn’t doing it on his own. Martinez’s background is in pitching, but he’ll be working with Cibney Bello and Mike McCarthy.
Bello was set to be the Rochester Red Wings pitching coach in 2020. He pitched for five seasons in the Mariners organization and three more seasons of independent baseball. He’s in his fifth season in the organization and has been a pitching coach in the GCL, in Cedar Rapids and in Pensacola. McCarthy pitched six seasons in the Red Sox organization before joining the Red Wings as their bullpen coach in 2018.
The position players will also be getting plenty of attention.
Donegal Fergus was hired as the Twins minor league hitting coordinator this offseason, highly recommended out of UC-Santa Barbara. Billy Boyer is in his second season as the Twins minor league infield and base running coordinator. Matt Borgschulte was scheduled to be the hitting coach for Rochester in 2020. This is his third season in the organization.
As far as what the players will be doing, it’s a lot like what’s happening at Target Field, just without cameras and media. The first workout there was last Thursday, but it was only for those players who had already received the results of their COVID tests. Some players were first tested last Monday, others on Tuesday, so results came in on Thursday or Friday.
Most of the players walk to the ballpark. They are usually split into groups of four or five players and have different scheduled activities from hitting, to working out in the weight room, bullpens and other activities. The are using the visitor’s clubhouse, but as with the players at Target Field, they only get about five minutes to get ready and get outside.
Some of the Twins top prospects are in St.Paul, but there is a lot of talent there. As mentioned, this list is subject to change. These are the players not on the 40-man roster,and some of the younger guys on the 40-man roster. Some of them are currently working at Target Field.
Dakota Chalmers (40)
Jhoan Duran (40)
In his press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Twins pitching coach Wes Johnson said that the team would be stretching out ten pitchers who are currently at Target Field. They will also be stretching out Chalmers and Duran, building up their arm strength with the hopes of them being starters down the line.
Travis Blankenhorn (40)
Gilberto Celestino (40)
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