For the first four games of the season, the Minnesota Twins had gone back and forth behind the plate: Mitch Garver on Opening Day, then Ryan Jeffers, then back to Garver, then to Jeffers.
Tuesday, manager Rocco Baldelli broke from that rotation for the first time this season, slotting in Jeffers for his second consecutive start. While playing time between the two of them is expected to be close to a 50-50 split once everything is said and done, it won’t always follow a day on, day off pattern manager Rocco Baldelli said.
“I think it’s going to be kind of mix and match here and there,” Jeffers said. “I think by the end of the year, it’s going to be close to 50-50 but I think Rocco’s going to use his cards and play into the hands of what plays better that day.”
While Baldelli said both are capable of handling more than a 50-50 workload, keeping them healthy and fresh throughout a long season at a grueling position is the most important factor for the Twins.
What determines who might play on any given day, though? With a string of lefties coming up, expect to see more of Garver in the near future. The next three starters the Twins face — Matthew Boyd, Marco Gonzales and Yusei Kikuchi — are all southpaws.
“We’re going to try to balance this out in a health manner, too, make sure these guys are rested and feeling good when they take the field,” Baldelli said. “That’s really what it’s going to be. It’s not just balancing one thing back and forth. We balance a half-dozen factors that go into this. The big one is just really keeping these guys rested, fresh, being on the field and up at the same time, and also, the matchups do matter as well.”
The Twins also have Willians Astudillo on the roster, though he seems more likely to see his playing time at other positions. Astudillo started at third base on Tuesday.
Still, having a third catcher on the roster helps give the Twins flexibility.
“He gives you the ultimate freedom. Anytime you have Willians Astudillo on a roster, the possibilities are endless,” Baldelli said. “He allows for that with our catchers, with our catching situation, he allows for that, really, in the field as well. It really does give you all the options in the world. He allows you to do whatever it is you want to do at any point.”
The Twins will offer the COVID-19 vaccine to those who want it after their game on April 8, doing it the day before an off day in case any players have side effects. The Twins also plan to offer the vaccine to family members.
“What we’re doing is trying to educate our players as to what this is and why we’re doing it and every guy is going to have to make his own call on what’s appropriate,” Baldelli said.
Baldelli has said multiple times that he plans to get the vaccine and a number of players — Nelson Cruz, Luis Arraez, Mitch Garver, Jose Berrios — participated in a video released by the team stating their intention to also. Shortstop Andrelton Simmons tweeted that he would not take the vaccine.
MLB is not mandating players get the vaccine but has incentivized it by promising to loosen restrictions once a team reaches 85 percent vaccination.
“I think there are a lot of people that know that we’re not really going to be able to move forward and relax anything, both protocol-wise and also internally for all of us, relax until we have some clarity on this and we have some reason to believe that we’re going to be safe when we stop necessarily acting in the manner we are right now,” Baldelli said. “I think the vaccinations are going to play a huge role in us being able to move forward.”
The Twins announced their starters for their upcoming series against Seattle. Jose Berrios, who has been lined up to start the home opener for weeks, will officially start on Thursday. … Josh Donaldson (strained hamstring) took batting practice on the field and ran on a treadmill on Tuesday, Baldelli said.