PITTSBURGH - Even before closing out a season-opening road trip, the Minnesota Twins were bracing for what could be the coldest home game in franchise history.
Thursday's forecast called for a low of 15 degrees with a high of 38 in downtown Minneapolis, home of Target Field. The Twins' home opener is scheduled for 3:10 p.m. against the Seattle Mariners.
"It's going to be rough," Twins manager Paul Molitor said.
At least the Twins will have the right guy on the mound in starting pitcher Kyle Gibson. It was Gibson who started the coldest home game in Twins history, April 17, 2014 against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Game-time temperature for the noon start was 31 degrees. Gibson, in his second big-league season, worked eight shutout innings against the Toronto Blue Jays in the first game of a doubleheader, allowing four singles and a walk in a 7-0 victory.
Gibson, who grew up outside Indianapolis and played at the University of Missouri, threw 62 of his 105 pitches for strikes.
The coldest game in major league history was April 23, 2013, when it was 23 degrees at game time for the Atlanta Braves and Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Twins special assistant Michael Cuddyer started and played right field for the Rockies that day in the 1:11 p.m. opener of a doubleheader. It was 30 degrees at first pitch for the 6:41 p.m. nightcap.
"It has an effect," Molitor said. "People think about it, they talk about it. You try to spread the word that it's one of those uncontrollable things both teams have to play with, and somehow amidst everything we do here there's a mental toughness component, too. And that means having to deal with all sorts of various adversities that came our way, including trying to perform a very difficult game where the conditions are going to be frigid."
It was 40 degrees at first pitch Monday afternoon at PNC Park, where the Twins lost 5-4 to the Pirates while issuing 11 walks for the first time since August 2014. Six of those were by starter Lance Lynn, tying his career high.
"Tough conditions," Molitor said. "I'm sure for the pitchers, that ball was slick and dry and cold. We had trouble throwing it over."
Twins second baseman Brian Dozier, who also played in the 2014 game against the Blue Jays along with first baseman Joe Mauer, said Monday's conditions were tolerable in the field.
"Weather-wise it wasn't that bad," he said. "It was cold. I know at second (base) I just underhand it over there anyway."
Molitor will challenge his players to use the cold weather to their advantage during this opening homestand, when Saturday's forecast carries a high of 28 degrees and a low of 10. Sunday's forecast is for a high of 32 and a low of 26.
Friday is a scheduled off day, which is good considering the forecast calls for a high of 25 and a low of 7.
"I think the player that can think about maybe using that to his advantage instead of disadvantage is one that might come out for the better," Molitor said. "If you can feel the ball, it probably does favor the pitcher. It can be tough to hit, especially when you've got four layers of clothes on and try to swing a bat."
And there is no way to start your swing early enough to avoid the vibrations that come with making contact on the handle instead of the barrel.
"The more you try not to get jammed, you'll get jammed," Molitor said. "You have to be as natural as you can."