DETROIT — Right on schedule, Michael Pineda is back.
The big right-hander drew the start for the Twins on Friday, June 7, after being activated the first day he was eligible to come off the injured list. Pineda had been placed on the IL with right knee tendinitis on May 28.
The starter had spent last season recovering from Tommy John surgery and a torn meniscus in his knee, and the Twins have been monitoring his workload this season.
“We would do that with a guy if it was just an arm injury, but of course we’re going to play attention to Mike’s knee as well and make sure that we’re going to take care of him in every possible way,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “Sometimes these stints are needed, medically needed, but more about maintenance for the player than they are simply the acute injury of going through something.
“He was obviously in pain and feeling something and we thought we needed to attend to it, but not necessarily something we felt would keep him out for a long period of time.”
To make room on the roster, Devin Smeltzer, who was called up to make two starts in Pineda’s absence, was sent back down to Triple-A. Smeltzer threw six scoreless innings in his major league debut. In his second start, he gave up five runs — and four home runs — in 6 1/3 innings against the Indians.
“I think he has a ton to be happy about and to be proud of, and a lot to build off of,” Baldelli said. “He came up here and proved to himself and everyone else that not only can he compete at this level, but he can succeed and do this job very well, so his stay was extremely positive, from my perspective.”
Kepler's day doesn't change plans
Max Kepler, a day after hitting three home runs, was out of the lineup Friday. But for Kepler, it was a planned day off against a lefty, not influenced by his 4-for-4 night on Thursday.
“Today was the day we were going to give Max the day, get him off his feet. Yeah, you kind of almost laugh to yourself and go, ‘This guy just went deep three times,’ ” Baldelli said. “Actually, he had plenty of good at-bats yesterday even besides the home runs he hit. He had a great day. You do kind of say it figures that’s the day we were planning on giving him, but I think our guys understand very well what’s going on.”
The Twins have more than nine everyday players, which requires Baldelli and his staff to get creative and to figure out when to fit in rest days. Baldelli said that they work on their lineups a week out, though they don’t always hold true with a number of factors coming into play.
“The players that we have here and the versatility of the players we have here, they just have a lot of different talents,” Baldelli said. “Our guys can do many things and because of that, the number of lineups that we can come up with, I don’t want to say it’s unlimited, but you can’t put a number of the different combinations that we can run out there.”