Jose Berrios’ final tune-up before the 2020 season didn’t come off exactly as planned — the team canceled its scheduled intrasquad game due to the weather — but the Twins’ No. 1 starter feels ready to go nonetheless.
Berrios threw nearly 90 pitches across six innings against his teammates in live batting practice on Saturday, a day after manager Rocco Baldelli announced him as the Twins’ Opening Day starter for the second time. Baldelli had announced Berrios would start on Opening Day for the second consecutive year in March shortly before spring training shut down due to the spread of COVID-19.
Though Berrios didn’t get to pitch in an intrasquad game, he said he tried to pitch with the same mindset and emotion during Saturday’s live batting practice that he will bring on Friday night against the White Sox in Chicago in the team’s opener.
“Always, when we have the opportunity to go out there and play, it’s a great feeling. Different feeling. Like I said, when we go and pitch on Opening Day, it’s like when a young kid goes to the first day of school. So these times are different, but we need to create that atmosphere. We need to create that energy. We have the group to do that.”
Sano faces live pitching
Slugging first baseman Miguel Sano was scheduled to be in the lineup for the first time during summer camp after spending the first part of camp sidelined by COVID-19.
Though Sano didn’t get a chance to compete in a game, he did see live pitching against Berrios, Rich Hill and Sergio Romo, among others, as he works to get ready for Opening Day.
“Miguel is actually doing really well, as far as just the workouts that he’s able to handle,” Baldelli said. “He’s got a resilient body and he can come out there, and we know he’s dealt with a lot of, not cabin fever, but he’s been stuck inside for a while now. So we weren’t sure exactly what he would look like after the workouts, but he’s definitely come out of them well.”
Baldelli weighs lineup options
Baldelli also is still working on how he will align his potent batters, specifically where to insert third baseman Josh Donaldson, who hit 37 homers and drove in 94 runs last season with Atlanta. Deciding whether to bat him back-to-back with Nelson Cruz or separate them with a left-handed bat is a decision any manager would like to take a swipe at.
Answer: He doesn’t know yet but feels good about either option.
Deciding where to bat Buxton when he returns might be easier. He was the only Twins position player who consistently hit in the same spot last season — ninth in the order in non-interleague games. Buxton was having his best year at the plate before being lost for the season to a left shoulder injury, hitting a career-best .262 with 10 home runs, 30 doubles and four triples in 87 games.
“I think that worked out, actually, great last year,” Baldelli said. “I think the thought of wondering all the time, ‘Where am I going to hit? If I swing the bat really well, am I going to move in the lineup?’ — things like that — I think eliminating a lot of that thought process is helpful. And just knowing that you’re going to consistently be there, we’re going to rely on you in a spot, and you can just go and do your job, as opposed to having all of these other thoughts, I think does help a lot.”
Luis Arraez, who was day-to-day with right knee tendinitis, participated in the team’s workout on Saturday and Baldelli said “no one had any real concern going forward with him.”
Buxton, who has a left mid-foot sprain, was out on the field mingling with his teammates. Baldelli said he has made “steady improvement,” since the sprain on Monday, and he is pleased with what he’s seen from Buxton since then.
And Willians Astudillo, who is still sidelined with COVID-19, seems to be getting closer to a return, Baldelli said.
“I think he’s basically on that line of crossing that line to where we’re going to see him here soon,” Baldelli said.