MINNEAPOLIS — The Twins are less than a week from leaving for Chicago, where they will play the Cubs in an exhibition at Wrigley Field before starting this abbreviated season against the White Sox on Friday, July 24 at Guaranteed Rate Field.
It doesn’t seem like it, does it?
“No, it doesn’t,” veteran Twins reliever Tyler Clippard said Tuesday.
Maybe it’s because spring training was interrupted for four months, or maybe it’s because training has been limited to three weeks of light workouts and intrasquad games in empty major league stadiums, but it doesn’t feel as if baseball is days from starting a season.
“I kind of had a little wake-up call the other day during, I think, it was my first scrimmage that I pitched in,” said Clippard, who signed a one-year, $2.75 million deal with Minnesota after spending last season in Cleveland.
“No fans, obviously. I think there were two or three defenders behind me. No umpire. And I’m like, ‘Man, I only get four more of these outings, then I’ve got to get ready for the regular season.’ So, it’s kind of a shock, mentally, for me, to think about that during that time.”
Clippard, 35, was more dialed in for his next appearance.
“I did way better,” he said, “but I approached it in a better way mentally because the season’s a week away — eight days or whatever it is — and we have to do the best we can as players to recognize that and to prepare ourselves appropriately. I think more than from the physical standpoint, mentally.”
The Twins will get a dress rehearsal of sorts on Wednesday night with an intrasquad game run under what will be game conditions. Not that that won’t be odd, as well.
The game will feature all the stadium bells and whistles; the public address system will be in use, there will be live scoreboard graphics and inning breaks. The team even will pipe fake crowd noise into Target Field. More important, the 7:10 first pitch will be streamed live as a dress rehearsal for regular broadcasts.
Dick Bremer and Justin Morneau will be the broadcast team, and the game will be shot with a four-camera crew. It will be available live on twinsbaseball.com and foxsports.com/north.
Randy Dobnak, who started Monday’s scrimmage and gave up homers to Nelson Cruz and Luis Arraez in the equivalent of three innings, has been adjusting to new on-field rules. Only one has been difficult.
“I used to lick my fingers a lot,” he said. “I’d probably inhale too much rosin per game just because I’d always be in my mouth every other pitch. But I’ve been trying to get away from that.”
There are many new on-field guidelines for this summer’s 60-game coronavirus season, among them a ban on spitting and high-fives. They’re even being discouraged from throwing the ball “around the horn” after recording a bases-empty out. The biggest for Dobnak is a ban on pitchers using their saliva to get a better grip on the ball.
“During quarantine, I would catch myself going to my mouth and I’d kind of stop myself thinking, ‘I’m not going to be able to do that so might as well break that habit now,’ ” Dobnak said. “I haven’t really noticed a difference. We’ve just got to use sweat and rosin bag. That’s about all the grip I can get.”
Pitchers are allowed to use a damp towel that will be on the mound but Dobnak said, “I haven’t tried it out yet.”
Right-hander Jake Odorizzi and lefty Lewis Thorpe were the starters in Tuesday’s intrasquad game.