- The Twins saw a pair of key players leave last night’s game with injuries. Third baseman Josh Donaldson departed with a right calf cramp, while center fielder Byron Buxton suffered a head contusion, per Dan Hayes of the Athletic. Neither player is in tonight’s starting lineup. Ehire Adrianza stepped in at the hot corner yesterday, while Jake Cave came in to man center. Donaldson’s situation is particularly notable; he’s got a lengthy history of calf troubles and only just returned from an IL stint due to a calf strain. Buxton, meanwhile, was hit in the head by a Lucas Sims pitch, prompting his early exit. Minnesota is a game up on both the Indians and White Sox in the AL Central. [UPDATE: Buxton is dealing with mild concussion symptoms, relays Betsy Helfand of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press. Donaldson is feeling better today and being held out as a precautionary measure, per Do-Hyoung Park of MLB.com].
This is a surprising outcome for Bailey, a former Red who revived his career between Kansas City and Oakland last year. The Twins, fresh off an AL Central title, then signed Bailey to a one-year, $7MM guarantee last offseason. Minnesota only got two starts and eight innings from Bailey this year, though.
Bailey, 34, landed on the injured list with biceps tendinitis after his first start of the season July 28, and he returned from nearly a two-month absence on Tuesday. Bailey threw three innings of one-run ball in that game – a win over the Tigers – but it wasn’t enough to save his job with the playoff-bound Twins, who count Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios, Rich Hill and Michael Pineda as their top four starters.
Colina, meanwhile, is a hard-throwing 23-year-old who ranks among the Twins’ 20 best prospects at MLB.com (No. 16) and FanGraphs (No. 16). MLB.com writes that while Colina has a chance to turn into a major league starter, “an impact reliever” role may also be in his future. Colina divided last year among High-A, Double-A and Triple-A, where he combined for a 2.96 ERA with 9.4 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 over 97 1/3 innings.
The Twins will be without second baseman Luis Arraez a bit longer than hoped after he sprained his left ankle while playing in an intrasquad game at their alternate training site, writes La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Arraez, on the IL due to tendinitis in his left knee, was eligible to return this week but will now be “reassessed” in the coming days, per skipper Rocco Baldelli, who termed the sprain as “mild.” The 23-year-old Arraez hasn’t come close to last year’s quietly excellent .334/.399/.439 output at the plate, but his .288/.336/.337 slash through 113 plate appearances this year remains respectable. He’s also still one of the hardest people in MLB to strike out, having fanned in just 9.7 percent of his plate appearances. Overall, Arraez is a .323/.384/.414 hitter with more walks (44) than strikeouts (40) through his first 479 MLB plate appearances. Veteran utilityman Marwin Gonzalez will likely continue to man second base in Arraez’s absence.
More out of the Twin Cities…
- The Athletic’s Dan Hayes profiles breakout Twins reliever Matt Wisler, whom the organization claimed off waivers from the Mariners early last offseason. Hayes notes that the Twins had Wisler atop their wishlist of potential minor league free agents but were happy to be able to claim him instead when he hit waivers. Pitching coach Wes Johnson tells Hayes he was “ecstatic” when the Twins, who were near the bottom of the waiver pecking order, were awarded the claim. Johnson attributed the Wisler interest to Minnesota’s “phenomenal” team of developers, who helped to identify him as a breakout candidate. “We get a lot of information,” said Johnson. “…What you see is you see Matt Wisler has tremendous vertical depth up and down and he has late movement on that.” Wisler has thrown his slider at an outrageous 86 percent clip en route to a 1.11 ERA and a 34-to-14 K/BB ratio through 24 1/3 frames with Minnesota. Hayes also chatted with Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey and Wisler himself about the right-hander’s turnaround.
- The Twins have yet to determine whether right-hander Homer Bailey will be on their postseason roster, but the veteran helped his case in last night’s return from the injured list. The 34-year-old, who’d made just one start in 2020 thanks to a lengthy bout of biceps tendinitis, returned with three innings of one-run ball, allowing two hits and a walk with a hit batter and three strikeouts. Via MLB.com’s Do-Hyoung Park, Baldelli offered praise for Bailey but wouldn’t commit to the composition of the team’s playoff roster just yet. “We’re going to need — especially in this year’s playoff situation — a number of guys, especially as we move forward in the playoffs and you have the possibility of playing in these five or seven-game series with no days off,” said Baldelli. Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios, Michael Pineda and Rich Hill seem likely to get starting nods as needed, but both Bailey and a hopefully healthy Jake Odorizzi will provide alternative options or at the very least some long relief potential.
- Twins right-hander Jake Odorizzi will “probably” be on their wild-card series roster, per manager Rocco Baldelli (via Do-Hyoung Park of MLB.com). Odorizzi has been on the IL since Sept. 19 with a blister on his right middle finger. This is the third IL stint of the year for Odorizzi, who previously dealt with back and chest issues. As a result, the Twins – who gave him a $17.8MM qualifying offer last winter – have only gotten 13 2/3 innings of 6.59 ERA pitching from Odorizzi this season. Nevertheless, they’re on their way to a second straight playoff berth.
The Twins have reinstated right-hander Homer Bailey from the 45-day injured list and optioned righty Sean Poppen to their alternate training site, per a team announcement. He’ll start tonight’s game. Minnesota’s recent outright of Zack Littell gave them a 40-man opening to accommodate Bailey’s return. They still have another 40-man spot to work with if they choose, as the Twins could move Brent Rooker, who recently fractured his forearm, to the 45-day IL as well.
Bailey, 34, signed a one-year, $7MM deal with the Twins on the heels of a bounceback 2019 effort split between the Royals and Athletics. The longtime Reds righty was limited to 231 2/3 innings of 6.25 ERA ball in his final four years in Cincinnati but turned in 163 1/3 innings between Kansas City and Oakland last year. Bailey logged a combined 4.57 ERA but a more impressive 4.11 FIP, averaging 8.2 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 along the way. His 10.8 percent swinging-strike rate was the second-best of his career.
This season, however, Bailey has made just one start for the Twins. It was a solid effort, as he held the Cardinals to a pair of runs on four hits and two walks with four strikeouts though five innings. But Bailey felt some discomfort in his right arm shortly thereafter, and he landed on the injured list with biceps tendinitis that has sidelined him since
The 2020 campaign will go down as a largely lost season for the veteran righty, but he’ll have the opportunity to make at least one start in the season’s final week — perhaps two — and could yet factor into the postseason pitching staff in some manner. It won’t be a great platform him as he ventures back out into free agency, but getting back to the mound and performing reasonably well would give him a bit of a boost on the open market this winter.
- Twins’ DH Nelson Cruz was scratched from today’s lineup against the Cubs. He’s dealing with right knee soreness, per various reporters (including Do-Hyoung Park of MLB.com). Eddie Rosario, who was initially slated to start in left field, got to DH instead, with LaMonte Wade, Jr. taking over in left. Cruz has again been among MLB’s best hitters, slashing .314/.403/.623 over 201 plate appearances.
Ron Gardenhire is retiring as Tigers’ manager, effective immediately, GM Al Avila announced today (via Chris McCosky of the Detroit News). Bench coach Lloyd McClendon will take over the manager’s chair for the remainder of the season, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Gardenhire intended to step away from the sport at the end of the 2020 season, he informed reporters (via Evan Woodbery of MLive), but a recent bout with food poisoning contributed to his decision to make the move a week and a half early.
“This is a bittersweet day for myself and my family,” Gardenhire said in a press release. “I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the countless players and coaches that I’ve had the honor of working alongside for the last 16 seasons as manager. I’d also like to thank the Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins for giving me the privilege of leading their clubhouses. While I’m stepping away from managing, I’ll be watching this group of Tigers closely in the next few years. There’s a lot of talent on this team, and a lot coming through the farm system. Tigers fans are going to enjoy the exciting times on the horizon.”
The 62-year-old leaves the sport as one of its most successful managers in recent memory. As he alluded to in his statement, he first broke into managing in Minnesota back in 2002. Those Twins teams immediately rattled off a trio of 90-plus win seasons, winning the AL Central each of those years. Gardenhire’s clubs posted above-average records in eight of his first nine seasons at the helm.
Along the way, Minnesota broke in a handful of the game’s brightest stars. Franchise icon Joe Mauer made his MLB debut in 2004 and was named AL MVP five years later. Johan Santana, meanwhile, blossomed into a perennial Cy Young contender during the mid-2000’s, claiming the award twice.
Bright as things were in the early portion of Gardenhire’s Minnesota tenure, they went off the rails rather quickly. The Twins never won more than 70 games in any season from 2011-14. The club fired Gardenhire after the 2014 season, ending his tenure as the second-winningest manager in franchise history.
Somewhat surprisingly, Gardenhire remerged after a three-year hiatus, getting the Tigers’ managerial job in advance of the 2018 season. Detroit has floundered through a trio of miserable seasons since, although that was always expected with the Tigers amidst a massive rebuild. Much more pressing than wins and losses, Gardenhire was tasked with shepherding Detroit’s young players to the big league level. This season, in particular, has seen the Tigers break a few top young players, including Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal, into the big leagues.
It’s always difficult to tell from the outside precisely how impactful a coach or manager was behind the scenes. Nevertheless, the well-respected Gardenhire drew plaudits in that regard from Avila. “I’d like to congratulate Gardy for having one of the best managerial careers in baseball history,” the GM said. “His leadership and hard work over three seasons with our ballclub has helped move us towards our goal of bringing winning baseball back to Detroit. His positive impact on our young players will be felt for years to come.”
All told, Gardenhire’s clubs compiled a 1200-1280 record. That .484 winning percentage, of course, somewhat reflects the difficult hand he was dealt over the past few seasons in Detroit. His 1200 managerial wins rank 46th in MLB history. MLBTR congratulates Gardenhire on a fantastic career and wishes him well in retirement.
The Twins placed right-hander Jake Odorizzi on the 10-day injured list yesterday due to a blister on his right middle finger. Righty Sean Poppen was called up from the Twins’ alternate training site to take Odorizzi’s spot on the active roster.
The placement is retroactive to September 17, so Odorizzi can be activated on the last day of the regular season. While blisters can be a nagging problem, Odorizzi is expected to miss only the minimum amount of time, though he’ll miss even more time in what has been an injury-plagued season for the veteran righty. Odorizzi has pitched only 13 2/3 innings due to two previous IL stints — the first for a back strain suffered during Summer Camp, and the second for a chest contusion after Odorizzi was hit in the chest with an Alex Gordon line drive.
Unsurprisingly, all the stops and starts have seemingly impacted Odorizzi’s performance, as he has only a 6.59 ERA and has been tagged for four homers over those 13 2/3 frames. As a result, Odorizzi seems ticketed for bullpen action during the Twins’ postseason run, and it certainly isn’t the platform year Odorizzi was looking for as he prepares to head into free agency this offseason. Odorizzi was also scheduled for free agency last offseason but he accepted the Twins’ one-year, $17.8MM qualifying offer rather than test the open market.
The Twins announced that they’ve reinstated catcher Mitch Garver from the 10-day injured list and optioned utility player Willians Astudillo. La Velle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune first reported on Garver’s return.
The Twins have gone without Garver since he went on the IL on Aug. 20 with a right intercostal strain. Before that, Garver only managed a .154/.262/.212 line with one home run in 61 plate appearances. That production represents a stunning drop-off for a player who seemingly broke through a season ago by slashing .273/.365/.630 with 31 homers and 3.9 fWAR in just 359 trips to the plate. Garver led all major leaguers with 350-plus PA then in isolated power (.357), but that number has plummeted to .058 this year.
At 31-21, the Twins are in position for a second straight playoff berth, but it doesn’t appear another AL Central title is in the cards, as they’re three games behind the White Sox. Regardless, if Garver’s able to round back into last year’s form upon his return, it would certainly increase the Twins’ World Series chances. Garver, rookie Ryan Jeffers and Alex Avila could comprise a strong trio at catcher.
The Twins passed right-hander Zack Littell through outright waivers and have assigned him to their alternate training site in St. Paul, tweets Dan Hayes of The Athletic. The move opens a spot on the team’s 40-man roster, which could open a spot for the return of righty Homer Bailey from the 45-day injured list or open a spot to select the contract of a non-roster player.
It would have been hard to imagine Littell clearing waivers a year ago this time and still registers as a bit of a surprise that no team placed a claim. The 24-year-old allowed seven runs through 6 1/3 frames in 2020 but also gave the Twins 37 innings of 2.68 ERA ball in 2019. That included a dominant stretch beginning with his June recall from Triple-A, wherein Littell rattled off 30 2/3 innings with just three runs allowed (0.88 ERA) and a 27-to-8 K/BB ratio. Littell’s velocity remained consistent with its career levels, as he averaged 94.1 mph on his heater in this year’s small sample of work.
Littell remains in the Twins’ 60-man player pool, so he can still be summoned later this season should a need arise, and he’ll still be under the organization’s control beyond the current season.