CHICAGO — This week’s series against the White Sox is likely as close as the Twins will get to replicating a playoff environment until the playoffs themselves begin later this month.
The four games will play a big role in the American League Central race as the two teams battle for positioning, and reliever Tyler Clippard said the Twins were using it as a “precursor to what’s ahead,” of them in the playoffs.
To begin the critical series, the White Sox trotted out a lineup with all nine regulars on Monday, Sept. 14. The Twins didn’t have that luxury.
Eddie Rosario and Miguel Sano, who were both removed early from Sunday’s game, were both out of the starting lineup on Monday, as was Marwin Gonzalez, who was scratched with a non-COVID related illness.
“It took us several hours at the ballpark today to fill out our lineup and to see who was going to be available,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “We had a lot of guys to check on. … We haven’t had the luxury of penciling in the names every day and to be able to do that without much thought.”
The Twins had Rosario dry swinging in the weight room, Baldelli said, and determined he needed another day after colliding with Byron Buxton on Sunday and bruising his left elbow. Sano has been dealing with neck soreness that kept him out of the lineup on Monday.
“We just deemed Miggy not being at the point where he can turn his head enough to play at the moment,” Baldelli said. “…His is more of an injury that any of us could be dealing with at any moment, but as far as hitting and throwing, having trouble turning his head has been kind of a bit of a bummer and more of a pain than anything else.”
Gonzalez’s late scratch, which pressed Ehire Adrianza into second-base duties on Monday, also was accompanied by a roster move. The Twins called up Travis Blankenhorn for the first time on Monday.
Blankenhorn, who has been training at the alternate site in St. Paul, hit .277 with a .321 on-base percentage last year between Class-A Advanced Fort Myers and Double-A Pensacola. He is primarily an infielder, spending most of his time at second and third base, but also appeared in the outfield.
Rosario, Sano and Gonzalez weren’t the only ones missing from the Twins’ lineup, as the club has multiple key pieces on the injured list.
Some, like Luis Arraez and Mitch Garver, hung back in the Twin Cities while the Twins traveled to Chicago for the week. Baldelli said Arraez (knee) is home getting treatment, and Garver (intercostal) played on Monday in St. Paul and everything went well. Homer Bailey is expected to throw on Tuesday in St. Paul.
Others, like Jake Odorizzi and Alex Avila, traveled with the club to Chicago, signifying a return is nearer. The Twins have yet to name a starter for Wednesday, but it is expected to be Odorizzi, who has been out since being hit on the chest with a batted ball on Aug. 21. Avila (back) also traveled, suggesting his return is closer than Garver’s.
Trevor May (back), who also left Sunday’s game early, is doing well, Baldelli said.
To make room on the 28-man roster for Blankenhorn, the Twins optioned pitcher Devin Smeltzer.