What’s Happening at the Alternate Site?
Image courtesy of © Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY SportsAgain, fortunately for the Twins, they haven’t needed to rely much on the alternate player pool to this point. Byron Buxton dealt with a small injury to start the year and Josh Donaldson is currently resting himself back to health through a calf issue. Other than that, though, Rocco Baldelli’s group has experienced a pretty clean bill of health.
While it’s not just injury that provides reason for promotion, the Twins record speaks to a team currently getting the job done, even if not all facets are currently clicking. Looking to continue developing their top talent, as well as having ready to go veterans at their disposal, the group working out at CHS Field across the river has an incredible amount of talent for Minnesota.
There’s isn’t an open door to fans here and checking in isn’t done simply by reading through a box score. Looking to get multiple perspectives I caught up with top prospect Royce Lewis, as well as veteran outfielder Lane Adams.
For a prospect like Royce, development and inching closer to the big leagues remains the goal. Without a traditional season he noted that while there’s hurdles, “any opportunity to get on the field with my brothers is a great place to continue learning.” Game action would certainly be the most optimal way to continue progressing on his developmental path, but Lewis said, “this feels like an extended Spring Training that has been going on all year.” He went on to note that “CHS Field is beautiful and nicer than many of the those I’ve played at in the minors.” In short, while it’s different, there’s still plenty of opportunity to get work in.
Checking in with Adams to get a more in-depth perspective on what actually takes place at the field, I asked what a typical day looks like in St. Paul. He broke it down like this, “There’s typically three groups of position players. The first group, which is the group that hits BP on the field first will stretch at nine while the other two groups stretch at 9:30. After the 9:00 stretch that same group will go to the batting cages and get there cage work in. The other two groups will stretch while the first group hits in the cages. After the cage work is over for the first group the 2nd group goes into the cages while the first group hits on the field as third group gets in there live defensive work. The 3rd group will then go to the cages then group 2 will go from the cages to on field hitting. After all the groups have gone through cages, BP, and live defensive reads we’ll usually do additional defensive work.
After BP and defensive work, we’ll jump right into playing a live simulated game. Games haven’t been longer than 4 innings. The length of the games depends on the available arms for that day.”
In other words, there’s a bit of everything and it works quite similarly to Spring Training on the back fields down in Fort Myers. Days are packed with lots of action and activity, allowing these guys to be as much ready to go should their number be called by the Twins. Lane noted that his process hasn’t really changed and that “We get plenty of swings and defensive work just like you would in a normal season setting.” So, while how things happen plays out differently, it isn’t that the preparation is lacking for anyone.
When talking about what may be different with this type of scheduling, Adams offered up something that I think the Major League clubs could voice as well, and probably felt during their intrasquad Summer Camp action. “It can be a bit of a grind to really focus and concentrate during the simulated games. As hitters we have to force ourselves to mentally bare down in our at bats. The days and routines can become monotonous if you let them. Not having the adrenaline from live games and atmosphere is definitely noticeable.”
I don’t think anyone would prefer the way of the world amidst COVID but understanding that you have to take the punches and roll with them is a must. Lane said the #MNTwins have done a great job walking the line between managing workloads but also staying on top of safety precautions and making sure that everyone is in the best situation to succeed.
Focus can’t be easy at all when your manufacturing a different reality, but Lane clearly knows how to keep it light and do his best in that department. If you think hitting in a regularly scheduled big league game is tough, this quip provided quite the laugh. “Trying to hit Duran’s 99mph sinker at 10 in the morning with no adrenaline is definitely an uphill battle, but we’re all happy to be here and we’re making the most of it.”
We’ll have minor league baseball back soon. We may have fans in the stands, and we’ll all get through this. That doesn’t mean the unprecedented nature of what we’ve endured thus far is any less interesting or different to say the least.
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