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COVID cancellations, key players sidelined by injuries, and several crushing losses: It was a rough week for Twins baseball. Let's review it, and try to figure out where we go from here.

Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 4/12 through Sun, 4/18

***

Record Last Week: 1-4 (Overall: 6-8)

Run Differential Last Week: -15 (Overall: +6)

Standing: 4th Place in AL Central

Last Week's Game Recaps:

NEWS & NOTES

Lest anyone thought we'd moved beyond the dangers and disruptions of a global pandemic, this past week for the Twins served as a sobering reminder that COVID-19 is very much still raging in our society, and pro sports are not immune (especially when partially-distributed vaccinations have yet to take full effect).

 

On Wednesday, Andrelton Simmons tested positive and was placed on the COVID-19 IL. The following two days were both thrown into doubt as chaos ensued with pre-game false positives, and on Saturday, mounting fears came to roost. The Twins registered multiple positive tests in their Tier-1 group (including Kyle Garlick and another as-yet-unnamed player), shutting down the rest of their series against the Angels and leaving the upcoming trip to Oakland in limbo.

 

Outside of the virus outbreak, the Twins had some other high-profile health issues. As soon as Josh Donaldson returned from his hamstring injury, Byron Buxton suffered one of his own, sitting out four straight games from Wednesday through Friday with what was described as a minor strain. So far, in a season where we were all so eager to see those two together in the lineup, it hasn't really happened yet.

 

On the bright side, Buxton was slated to play on Saturday night before the game was axed, so he should be fine once the Twins get going again. Perhaps the extra time off for his legs will be a hidden silver lining of an extremely unfortunate situation.

 

In other roster moves, the carousel at the end of the bullpen is already spinning, as expected. Brandon Waddell was optioned on Wednesday to make room for Donaldson. The next day, Cody Stashak was optioned and replaced for one game by Shaun Anderson, who was himself sent out the following day to make room for Friday night's starter Lewis Thorpe. Thorpe went back down after making his spot start, with Devin Smeltzer arriving to fill in as long reliever.

 

It's probably just gonna be like this all year for the relief corps. Buckle up.

 

HIGHLIGHTS

In a week sparse on highlights and happy moments, Michael Pineda came through in a big way. His seven shutout innings against Boston on Thursday helped the Twins secure their only victory of the week, avoiding a sweep at home.

 

In his finest start yet as a Twin, Big Mike cruised through seven frames on 88 pitches, striking out six and walking one with two singles allowed. A red-hot Boston lineup could never really mount a threat against Pineda as he pounded the zone with quality fastballs and then attacked with sharp sliders.

 

 

Through three starts, Pineda has a 1.00 ERA and 17-to-3 K/BB ratio, holding opponents to a .159/.194/.270 slash line. He gave up a pair of solo homers against Seattle in his second start but those are the only earned runs he has allowed. Just phenomenal work on the mound. The Twins are now 23-11 behind him since he joined the team.

 

 

Some other highlights to take away from a tough week:

  • While Miguel Sanó's swing still isn't quite dialed in, and he's not quite connecting on pitches he should, he's getting closer. This was evidenced by a big home run in Thursday's win. Narrowly missing the sweet spot is all that's holding Sanó back, because his plate approach is locked in. The first baseman walked (6) twice as much as he struck out (3) in 16 plate appearances. A breakout in production seems imminent.
  • Donaldson's return to the lineup went about as well as one could have hoped. He tested his legs immediately, sprinting from first to third and then subsequently to home plate on a sac fly. JD came out of it fine, and went 3-for-6 with a walk and RBI in his two starts.
  • Thorpe answered the call in Anaheim, delivering four quality innings against a tough lineup, with some notable highlights – including a three-pitch strikeout of Mike Trout. It ultimately wasn't enough, as the bullpen collapsed following his departure, but so far Thorpe's 2021 redemption tour is off to a good start.
  • Even in a very poor week by his own standards (he went hitless in four of five starts), Luis Arraez was a big factor, carrying the offense single-handedly in Minnesota's lone win. Arraez tallied four hits, drove in two, and scored the winning run in a 4-3 squeaker. He also displayed some highly impressive instincts on the basepaths. (His form on the slide, however, could use some work.)

 

 

LOWLIGHTS

Aside from the smattering of encouraging developments above, the past seven days were a flurry of almost nonstop bad news for the Twins, both on the field and off it. The gravity of the latter outweighs the former so heavily, it feels pointless to pick apart individual performances in an almost universally ugly 1-4 stretch.

 

Suffice to say that the offense as a whole slashed .228/.316/.282 with five doubles, one home run, and 12 runs scored in five games. With runners in scoring position they put up a putrid .175/.271/.200 line. Meanwhile, the bullpen posted a collective 9.19 ERA, with almost every reliever taking part in a series of poorly-timed implosions. Rocco Baldelli made a number of borderline decisions, and basically every one went the wrong way.

 

With all that's going on, I find it difficult to hold these struggles against the manager or team. Beginning with Simmons on Wednesday, the Twins dealt with an endless onslaught of stress and drama, sparked by positive tests both legitimate and illegitimate. Beyond the mental distractions stemming from all this, the ability of players to prepare for games and go through normal routines was impeded. It's all bad.

 

You just hope they can use this immense challenge as an opportunity to come together, rest up, and hit the ground running as they seek to turn around one of the most confounding team-wide slumps of Baldelli's tenure.

 

More than anything, you hope there's no further spread, and that all who've been affected by this outbreak can recover quickly and fully.

 

TRENDING STORYLINE

Obviously, the overarching and all-consuming storyline is: when will the Twins play again? But within that, the status and outlook for Alex Kirilloff becomes a pivotal thread.

 

Kirilloff came and went quickly on Thursday, joining as 27th man for the doubleheader and taking three hitless plate appearances before returning to the alternate site. But there's certainly an argument the Twins could've benefited from keeping him around, given the wavering availability of Buxton and the ongoing struggles of Jake Cave.

 

One way or another, it's only a matter of time. Within the next few days, and perhaps before the team even plays again, Kirilloff will reach the point where it becomes impossible for him to accrue a full year of major-league service this season, meaning there's no reason to keep him down unless the Twins don't think he's ready or don't think he can help. That's becoming a tougher and tougher case to make, especially since they know they'll be without Garlick (at least) for some time.

 

LOOKING AHEAD

With Monday's series opener in Oakland already canceled, the tentative plan is for a traditional doubleheader on Tuesday – the second in a weeklong span for the Twins. Keyword: tentative. If they play then, it's anyone's guess how they might handle their rotation. Matt Shoemaker was due up on Saturday but with all the days off, the Twins have the option to skip him and J.A. Happ, starting both José Berríos and Kenta Maeda on five days rest. Then again, everyone needs their work and there's nothing wrong with getting the top two arms a little extra rest here early in the season. So I'd expect Shoemaker and Happ to start on Tuesday.

 

Next weekend the Twins are scheduled to return home for a quick one-off series against the Pirates, but with Minneapolis bracing for the potential fallout of a verdict in the Derek Chauvin murder trial in the days ahead, that series carries its own cloud of uncertainty.

 

Stay tuned and we'll keep you updated on things as they develop. But be ready for a weird week.

 

TUESDAY, 4/20 (G1): TWINS @ ATHLETICS – TBD v. RHP Jesus Luzardo

TUESDAY, 4/20 (G2): TWINS @ ATHLETICS – TBD v. LHP Sean Manaea

WEDNESDAY, 4/21: TWINS @ ATHLETICS – TBD v. RHP Frankie Montas

FRIDAY, 4/23: PIRATES @ TWINS – RHP Trevor Cahill v. TBD

SATURDAY, 4/24: PIRATES @ TWINS – RHP Chad Kuhl v. TBD

SUNDAY, 4/25: PIRATES @ TWINS – LHP Tyler Anderson v. TBD

 

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Anyone know how ticket policy works for this?  I have tickets for the original night game in Oak on Tuesday.

 

Do I just get 7 innings for those tickets now?  Is it the night or day game?  Is there a package for both games?

 

Already spent a decent chunk of change to buy the 2 required tickets for my solo self...  Plus a hotel and a 3 hour drive...

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For everyone who enjoys a good twisting plot and a mystery, the twin season promises to deliver the most unusual and unexpected story lines we have seen.

It will end in disappointment like it historically has. 

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Anyone know how ticket policy works for this?  I have tickets for the original night game in Oak on Tuesday.

 

Do I just get 7 innings for those tickets now?  Is it the night or day game?  Is there a package for both games?

 

Already spent a decent chunk of change to buy the 2 required tickets for my solo self...  Plus a hotel and a 3 hour drive...

Why would you want to be in California......ever? 

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Shame about the Covid outbreak. For those who had Covid, we know it makes us feel like we aged 5-10 years. Let's keep our fingers crossed that it does not affect the Twins players the same way. For most of us, five years means a bigger belly, being tired, having to work-out harder while it being much harder to do so, and being a tad dumber. No big deal. Five years in baseball terms is the difference between being a player in his prime and retirement.

 

Although some are raising the red flag on the season, the Twins are performing well overall. There are some valid complaints, but overall the Twins had a good start. The W-L could be better, but if they keep playing the way they have been, the W-L record will take care of itself.

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Anyone know how ticket policy works for this?  I have tickets for the original night game in Oak on Tuesday.

 

Do I just get 7 innings for those tickets now?  Is it the night or day game?  Is there a package for both games?

 

Already spent a decent chunk of change to buy the 2 required tickets for my solo self...  Plus a hotel and a 3 hour drive...

Good questions... I had tickets to the Monday night game, and they have already given me a refund for those. I can't find any details about how it works if you have tickets to the Tuesday game. Maybe try calling the box office to ask.

 

I was really looking forward to finally seeing some live baseball, so I'm selfishly hoping that this series actually gets played, but first and foremost, let's just hope that everyone in the Twins organization is healthy at the end of all this.

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Skied Lake Tahoe, thats as far into CA as I will go. Lake was Lovely. As far as im concerned the major cities and everyone in them can fall into the ocean. 

At least wait until our favorite ballclub gets away from the coast before you start wishing for that...

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This team didn't hit last year (except for Cruz, and even he cooled toward the end of the year, and Buxton, when he was able to play), it didn't hit during ST, and it isn't hitting now. So many chose to disregard the performance of last year and ST and considered it meaningless. I would have been surprised if they just turned it on like a switch. The bullpen decisions I hated, and even more now. This FO did little but stand pat, or make this team OLDER. It is a long season (maybe). I hope they figure it out. But I am not optimistic. I think they are totally wasting the current window, and need to bring on the youth, and make quick decisions about their bullpen mess. Or..... just trade the youth or let them go to other teams that don't keep them buried in the minors...... yubbaa dubbaa baddoo.

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I am frustrated and disappointed with the start to the season thus far, make no mistake. But I am not in panic or knee-jerk massive change mode. Why? Because I've been watching baseball for 50yrs...OK, I was a small kid the first few years...and I have seen a ton of teams start slow and then ramp up. And I've also seen many teams start hot and fade. So despite how disappointed and frustrated I am, I'm giving a pass, grudgingly, for April unless we just tank the rest of the month.

 

That doesn't mean changes can't be made or shouldn't be made.

 

What would I do at this point? Well, it's to say because MLB, in their infinite wisdom, (extreme sarcasm), has decided to delay the milb season and messed how you play with your roster early in the season, despite the taxi squad and the reserve roster working out at St Paul.

 

Lineup wise, you just can't "give up" on Polanco and Sano at this point. Sano is MISSING barreling up, but is doing everything else right. He's taking good AB and not flailing, which is what we want. Polanco hit before before some bad things happened in his life and he got busted for a substance. But he hit when healthy after those events until his ankle got messed up. Healthy, reportedly, he had a great ST but has looked BAD so far. Is he just finding his stroke and timing? Can you give up on him this soon?

 

Same with Garver and Kepler. Even if both never approach their 2019 seasons, we've seen they have the talent and ability to be productive hitters. Two weeks is NOT time to freak out for anyone, no matter how disappointing the start to the season has been.

 

I like Cave as a 4th OF. He has a solid 2018-2019 but a bad 2020. I excuse a lot of guys for a bad 2020. He had a bad beginning to 2019 before being sent down and then coming back up strong. I believe he has an option left, so despite no AAA play at this point, I'd send him down and bring up Kirilloff and run with him. We're looking for a jump start so why not? He can play 3 spots and Kepler can cover CF here and there. And it shouldn't take away from AB for Arraez at all.

 

Speaking of Arraez, just put him at #1 and leave him there. He's at least OK against LHP and it provides stability. With Donaldson behind him, be should be even better. Cruz and the crazy and now ready to go Buxton should/could make a great first 4.

 

Tell me, convince me, with previous history, that Kepler, Sano, Garver/Jeffers and Polanco shouldn't start to hit and produce over the next couple of weeks with any sort of "normal" taking place?

 

Sometimes, baseball, football, basketball, sometimes your lineup just needs time as well as tweaks and changeup. It really stinks that BOTH Rooker and Garlick are out right now. But a shakeup is needed once in a while. Especially when you don't have a backup catcher who walks naked through the clubhouse to provide relief, lol.

 

I've seen enough of the rotation thus far to be VERY encouraged! I've seen enough of the pen so far to go from "concerned without worry" to begin to worry. I'm not going to let myself plunge in to panic mode at this point. BUT, something needs to "click" soon or changes will have to be made!

 

I think Dobnak has a real future in MLB. And he's had some good IP. But not everyone can transition to the pen easily. I'm starting to wonder if the best thing for him isn't pitching at St Paul and then taking over a rotation spot when someone is out. Of course, once again, there is no AAA going on right now.

 

If the 2021 Twins were a car, an engine, back in the 80's/early 90's, I would say they were an engine ready to drive hard and fast with a tuneup to the carburetor and/or plugs. It's up to not just the players, but to Rocco and his staff and the FO for said tuneup.

 

Again, I'm willing to give April a pass due to a lot of things. But May 1st is coming up. Things are going to get real soon. And while I am a huge fan of Rocco, I don't think he's been on point thus far. But it's still on the players to produce as well. But I laugh at those wanting to replace him, especially after what he's done thus far, with someone who spits fire. Even TK, and his not quite as successful protege Gardy, preached an even keel approach. How many of us have worked for a day to day DRIVER, or watched such for a sports team, and have felt/witnessed a lack of direction due to being hit over the head day in and day out? That method of management just doesn't last beyond a short period of time.

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Good questions... I had tickets to the Monday night game, and they have already given me a refund for those. I can't find any details about how it works if you have tickets to the Tuesday game. Maybe try calling the box office to ask.

 

I was really looking forward to finally seeing some live baseball, so I'm selfishly hoping that this series actually gets played, but first and foremost, let's just hope that everyone in the Twins organization is healthy at the end of all this.

Game on! 1.5 games for the price of one haha.

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