MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins toyed around with using an opener last season, testing out the nontraditional pitching strategy in the minors and then at the major league level near the end of the season.
This year? They haven't used it once in the majors.
But that doesn’t mean they haven’t thought about it — or they wouldn’t be open to it moving forward, perhaps in September.
No, it’s more a reflection of how healthy the pitching staff has remained over the course of the season. Michael Pineda has hit the injured list twice with minor issues, but the team’s four other starters — Jose Berrios, Kyle Gibson, Jake Odorizzi and Martin Perez — have all avoided it.
The concept, which originated in Tampa Bay, involves using a reliever to begin the game followed by a "primary pitcher." It allows starters to avoid facing the lineup a third time through, when pitchers are often hit harder.
“We might consider it. We’ve considered it the entire time. We haven’t done it, but we’ve certainly discussed it, thought about it and probably almost done it a few times,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “That being said, we’ve had a very healthy rotation, a good rotation. It’s probably a testament to our medical staff and (pitching coach) Wes (Johnson) and (assistant pitching coach Jeremy Hefner) for taking care of our guys.”
If they were going to do it this year, sometime in September when rosters have expanded might make sense, to possibly help get a starter an extra day of rest. Baldelli said it still remained a possibility. Prior to this year, Baldelli coached in Tampa Bay, and it's something he believes can be useful, given the right players with the right skillsets.
“Because we haven't done it, it might seem like we've gone out there and run our five guys out there and not spent a lot of time on it,” he said. “We've spent a lot of time on it. It just hasn't played out where we think we've needed to do it, and we're not just going to open someone for the sake of opening them. We're going to wait. If the time comes where we think it's something that's truly going to help us and there's some real positives to doing it.”
Rosario out again
After Eddie Rosario worked out on Saturday, Baldelli sounded optimistic that the left fielder would be able to avoid the injured list.
Rosario, who Baldelli said was available off the bench on Saturday, was under the weather on Sunday morning. With a day off Monday, they are not likely to know more about his availability until Tuesday in Chicago. Rosario was removed from Wednesday’s game with hamstring tightness and has not played since.
“We’re not going to commit to him starting in the game or anything like that. I think he’s doing well,” Baldelli said. “We’ll see how he’s feeling and his leg seemed to be doing well, so we’ll see how he’s doing. We’re not going to find out much on the off day so we probably have to wait until Tuesday.”
Buxton rehab update
Byron Buxton went 1 for 2 with a double, walk and run scored in his first rehab game with the Class A Cedar Rapids Kernels, serving as the team's designated hitter.
Buxton suffered a left shoulder subluxation earlier this month after colliding with a wall at Miami's Marlins Park. He is scheduled to play the outfield during the Kernels’ game on Monday against Peoria.
Baldelli seemed optimistic that the outfielder would return during the team’s upcoming three-city road trip, though the Twins have not said whether they expect him back in Chicago, their first stop on the road trip.