A strange sight: Twins pitchers work on their fielding in the July heat
MINNEAPOLIS — Early work for hitters is a regular part of the baseball routine, but it's not nearly as common for pitchers.
So it was somewhat jarring to see 11 Twins pitchers — all but Monday starter Jose Berrios and Sunday starter Jake Odorizzi — out in the 89-degree afternoon heat for 30 minutes' worth of pitchers' fielding practice on Monday, July 9.
"There have been some good things on our defensive work by our pitchers and some things that we need to clean up," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "Practice isn't like a game, but you just want to get a chance to tighten it up when you can."
Twins pitching coach Garvin Alston made the suggestion during the disastrous 1-8 road trip, but due to logistics the midseason PFP had to wait until Monday. There will be another such session on July 20 in Kansas City, coming out of the All-Star break.
Veteran Lance Lynn and since-demoted rookie Fernando Romero have been among those Twins pitchers who failed to cover first base on grounders to the right side, but bullpen coach Eddie Guardado stressed the extra session wasn't a punishment.
"I don't know if there's really a message," Guardado said. "It's more a reminder of what's important in the game: Covering your bag, doing the little things right. Don't forget about the small things that will help you win ballgames. That's what it's for."
Pickoff moves to second base were reviewed as well.
"It's nice to stay sharp," reliever Taylor Rogers said. "You go over the signs again and some stuff you don't normally use a lot. Kind of a refresher. It was good to knock some dust off. You can always get better at everything."
That the session came before Game No. 88 against a Kansas City Royals team that had lost 27 of 31 coming in might not have been coincidental either.
"We've got a lot of baseball left," Guardado said. "We get paid to play the game of baseball and we've got to respect the game. When you respect the game, good things happen. When you disrespect the game, you might as well put your cleats up and go home."
Michael Pineda, who had Tommy John surgery last July 18, threw 50 pitches off the game mound with Ehire Adrianza standing in on Monday afternoon.
Pineda, signed to a two-year, $10 million deal this offseason, is due for another such session on Friday before flying back to Fort Myers, Fla. Pineda is then scheduled to rest for a few days before throwing to hitters in live batting practice a couple of times and then working in a simulated game.
His rehab assignment could start around Aug. 1 with the realistic possibility he will return to face big-league competition in September.
"It's exciting," Pineda said with a smile. "I feel really good. I'm getting close to being ready for the show, for the real games."
With Triple-A Rochester on its three-day all-star break, the Twins considered sending Byron Buxton down to Double-A Chattanooga so he could continue to get regular at-bats.
After consulting with Buxton, it was determined he would stay in Upstate New York to work out all three days with Red Wings hitting coach Chad Allen. Rochester opens the second half on Thursday at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
In 17 games since being sent to Rochester, first on rehab assignment and later on minor-league option, Buxton was hitting .239 with a .311 on-base percentage and 22 strikeouts in 74 plate appearances.
Outfielder Ryan LaMarre, designated for assignment last week, was claimed off waivers by the Chicago White Sox. LaMarre joins another ex-Twins outfielder, Daniel Palka, who has 11 homers in 60 games as a rookie since the White Sox claimed him off waivers in November.
Super utility man Taylor Motter, currently at Double-A, should head to Triple-A on Thursday after the International League all-star break ends.
Right-hander Ervin Santana is due to start Tuesday for Double-A Chattanooga and again on Sunday for Rochester. If those outings go well, he could be slotted back into the big-league rotation coming out of the all-star break.
Second baseman Luis Arraez, recently promoted to Double-A, was named Florida State League player of the month for June by Minor League Baseball. Arraez, a 21-year-old Venezuelan who missed last season with a knee injury, hit .449 and slugged .617 for Class A Fort Myers in June.