One by one this season, the Twins’ rotation has flipped from veterans to fresh faces, younger arms taking over for the group of five the Twins once hoped would be pitching in a playoff race this September.
For a couple of weeks now, the Twins’ rotation had an entirely new look from April. From the five they began the season with, two were traded, two were injured and one was released.
The Twins got one of those five back Monday — though they didn’t slide him back into the rotation immediately. Michael Pineda was activated from the injured list ahead of the game in Cleveland. And for his first outing back, the Twins opted to let him piggyback off starter Bailey Ober, both as a way to ease Pineda in without sending him off on a rehab assignment, and as a way to limit Ober’s innings.
“(I’m) really proud of how hard Mike’s worked to get back to this point,” pitching coach Wes Johnson said.
Pineda’s season has been thrice interrupted by injuries. He missed time in May to have an abscess removed. An arm issue that cropped up in mid-June held him out until July 7. Most recently, the starter suffered a left oblique strain, forcing him out of his start early on Aug. 13 and back onto the injured list.
Now that he’s back, his veteran presence has been useful for a rotation that has a trio of rookies in Ober, Griffin Jax and Joe Ryan.
“I’m the old guy in the rotation,” Pineda said at the beginning of August after José Berríos and J.A. Happ were traded. “For me, I feel blessed that I can help these young guys in whatever situation they need me.”
And that wasn’t just talk.
Johnson pointed to a recent time when he had Pineda come down to watch Ober and Jax throw bullpens and then was “giving them wisdom,” that he had picked up throughout his career.
“Mike came up throwing 100 (mph). Wasn’t just an elite command guy like he is now. And then just what was the transformation there? It’s always good to have a guy like that in the clubhouse with experience who has had some success … and just talking about that given the experience of what he went through. That stuff you can’t put a price on that. He’s been awesome.”
To make room on the roster, the Twins optioned reliever Ian Gibaut to Triple-A. Gibaut has made three appearances for the Twins this season, giving up two runs in 6 2/3 innings. … Monday’s game — and potentially all of the Cleveland series — was managed by two acting managers. Coach Bill Evers is filling in for manager Rocco Baldelli, who is on paternity leave. The Twins have not yet said when Baldelli will return. For Cleveland, DeMarlo Hale has been serving as acting manager for Terry Francona, who stepped away in late July to address health issues.