In less than two weeks, the Twins almost assuredly will begin the American League Division Series, taking the field in either in Houston or New York. The Twins entered the day with a 99.9 percent chance to make the playoffs and a 99.1 percent chance to win the division, per FanGraphs.
The Twins have spent a majority of the season in first place this season and entered Saturday with a magic number of just five to win the American League Central. Within the week, it seems likely that they will have clinched the division title.
Just don’t ask Rocco Baldelli about it.
The Twins manager does not want to use the words “playoff” or “postseason” publicly in reference to his team until that magic number is down to zero.
Exhibit A, after he was asked by one reporter about playoff pitching plans: “It’s a good question, and I wanted to let you finish asking the whole question, but I’m certainly not in a position to answer any sort of playoff scenario questions right now,” Baldelli said earlier this week. “Again, we have our game today. That’s really all we’re spending any time on right now.”
Exhibit B, after a different question from a different reporter about playoff pitching plans days later: “I’d love to help you with this article, but I can’t really talk about playoff thoughts and strategy and things like that yet,” Baldelli said Friday. “I think it would be wrong to do. We haven’t spent a ton of time as a group really getting into it. Of course we’ve all been thinking about different scenarios and things. It’s kind of our job to get ahead of things, but we have a ton to still accomplish.”
All season, Baldelli has preached focusing on the current day’s task. That means that questions about whether the Twins might go with a bullpen game or two will have to wait. Same with questions about the composition of the playoff roster.
Before the New York Yankees had clinched the American League East, manager Aaron Boone had already commented publicly about plans to be “untraditional” with the pitching this postseason.
Even after that was pointed out, Baldelli didn’t change his tune: Concerning playoff talk, his lips are sealed until after the Twins are officially in.
“We’re going to go a different route. We’re going to try to win today’s game and see where that gets us and when the time comes, we’ll definitely be getting into some more specific discussions and we’ll have some things to talk about,” Baldelli said.
But rest assured, as much as Baldelli likes to joke around that the Twins just “wing it” when it comes to making decisions, the team has already been making plans behind the scenes for October.
Just don’t expect to hear about them.
“I don’t hate talking about this stuff, but I think it’s irresponsible to talk about it publicly before we’ve actually accomplished any of it and I would say there are probably a lot of discussions related to looking ahead,” Baldelli said. “It’s certainly the organization’s responsibility to look ahead and talk about things internally, but I don’t think talking about them externally makes much sense.”
It has been a week since Max Kepler last started a game for the Twins, and he sat again Saturday. Baldelli said Kepler (rhomboid strain) has been on the field running the bases and shagging during batting practice because the Twins want to keep his legs moving, even if he’s not yet ready to return.
“He can do a bunch of different things,” Baldelli said. “He’s just not at the point where we’re going to send him out there to play and get a bunch of at-bats right now.”
Ehire Adrianza (oblique strain) fielded ground balls Saturday and he said he would hit off a tee on Sunday.
“He’s starting to get to the point where he can move around a little bit,” Baldelli said. “He’s still a long way off from doing anything at game speed. He’s just feeling his body out at this point.”
C.J. Cron (thumb) was out of Saturday’s lineup after starting on Friday, but everything went well Friday. Cron smoked a ball at 113.2 mph off the bat and another at nearly 105 in his start.
“C.J. came out fine,” Baldelli said. “ … He looked good swinging the bat, and his work defensively actually was probably one of the things in the game that got us where we needed to be.”