Don’t expect the Twins to make — or, at least, publicly reveal — any decisions on how they might want to replace left fielder Eddie Rosario anytime soon.
The Twins non-tendered Rosario earlier this month, and on Tuesday, while meeting with reporters on a Zoom call, manager Rocco Baldelli expressed confidence in the club’s internal options, a group that includes Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach, two of the organization’s top prospects.
“We have multiple options that I think are not just options that fit but guys that can impact our team,” Baldelli said.
Among them, Jake Cave, who Baldelli said, in another situation might have been going out and playing regularly, LaMonte Wade Jr. or Brent Rooker, whose rookie season was cut short after suffering a forearm fracture.
It also includes Kirilloff, who made his debut in the 2020 playoffs, and Larnach. Kirilloff and Larnach, both 23, are recent first-round draft picks who spent the summer training and preparing at the Twins’ alternate site at CHS Field. MLB Pipeline has them as the club’s second and third prospects respectively, and No. 27 and 77 overall in MLB.
“These guys can simply just hit and they’re strong,” Baldelli said. “They drive the ball. They do a lot of other things, too. They’re also good competitors, good teammates, guys that I think will fit in well with what we do as a team. I think both of these guys are going to be huge factors for us going forward.”
While there was no minor league season in 2020 — it was wiped out due to COVID-19 — Baldelli said he doesn’t think that matters as much with the progress of the two blue-chip prospects.
“I think they truly are either prepared at this moment or will be very soon to impact (at) the big-league level,” he said.
All is well
Baldelli had a positive update on a group of players who finished the season banged up — Jorge Polanco, Josh Donaldson, Rooker and Ryan Jeffers.
Polanco had offseason surgery for the second straight year on his ankle. Donaldson was plagued by a calf issue throughout the 2020 season. Rooker underwent surgery on his arm. And Jeffers had a minor procedure to clean up loose pieces in his right elbow this offseason, the Twins announced Tuesday. Baldelli said the rookie catcher was “essentially back to normal already.”
“It’s been a good health-related offseason for all those guys,” Baldelli said. “All are recovering and essentially good to go and are working out and feeling about as good as we could possibly hope for.”
Baldelli said he talked to Donaldson a day earlier and that the two discussed rest, recovery and scheduling as they plot out the best possible course to keep the veteran third baseman on the field. Donaldson, who has a history of calf issues, missed more than a month of the season with a calf strain and also was dealing with the issue at the end of the year, forcing him to miss the playoffs.
He said they would have to be “creative” in their efforts, which could mean giving Donaldson selective days off — especially earlier in the season — and potentially using him as a designated hitter on occasion.
“You’re going to have to go down these roads and be open-minded, I think, if you’re going to plan on having success because if you just operate traditionally and you just send guys out there every day, I think you could end up in a place you don’t want him to be,” Baldelli said. “But luckily, we have players, and JD in this instance, who are open-minded to these things.”
The Twins had bullpen coach Bob McClure and major league coach Bill Evers, both in their 60s, help out remotely last year due to the risks of COVID-19, but they’ve made plans to have Evers return to the bench in 2021 and plan on having McClure return to the group as a special assistant.
“I think Mac is very comfortable with it. I think he enjoyed the role he was in before. I think he was able to offer a lot to a lot of different people and players at all levels,” Baldelli said. “… Bill is going to rejoin the major league staff next year in his role as major league coach. He loves that title. … I think Bill’s also excited to get back to work.”
With McClure shifting roles, the Twins will keep Pete Maki on the major league staff as the team’s bullpen coach, a role he filled last season in place of McClure.
“Pete’s an exceptional character,” Baldelli said. “He’s a great coach. He’s brought a lot to the table, and I think he’s only going to get better as time goes on.”