CHICAGO — The Twins are coming down to the final hours to submit their expanded roster. Come Thursday at 11 a.m., they will have to lock in a roster of 30 players along with a three-man taxi squad.
The Twins traveled with 32 players down to Chicago. Not included in that group is starter Jake Odorizzi, who manager Rocco Baldelli said will start the season on the injured list with mild upper back soreness.
“He’s dealing with a little something but he’s still able to take part in most of his day, most of his preparation. I wouldn’t expect this to linger too long,” Baldelli said. “I would expect him to be back on the mound sometime soon, probably throwing a bullpen either just before back or soon after we come off the road and then be ready to go.”
Byron Buxton’s health will also come into play as the team finalizes its roster. The speedy center fielder is day-to-day after spraining his foot during Summer Camp. Baldelli said he worked out on Wednesday in St. Paul and is expected to make his way down to Chicago. Though Buxton could be on the roster regardless without requiring an injured list stint, his readiness could help determine who they take to begin the season.
“Buck was able to go over to St. Paul, get a full day of work in, run and pick up the intensity on his running. I got some videos of him getting swings off of live pitching. That’s what allows him to actually get a lot in right now. We’ve talked with Buck about potentially coming over this weekend,” Baldelli said. “I think it’s still to finalize probably yet to be determined but I think we feel pretty good about him coming over and seeing where he’s at.”
Outfielder LaMonte Wade Jr. is along on the trip, as is fellow outfielder Aaron Whitefield.
Another thing to keep an eye on is how many pitchers the team winds up carrying. Pitching coach Wes Johnson said earlier during Summer Camp that he would potentially like to have two length options on the roster, and Randy Dobnak, Devin Smeltzer and Lewis Thorpe all made the trip. One will be expected to make a spot start in place of Odorizzi.
Relievers Caleb Thielbar and Jorge Alcala, who could possibly be ticketed for the taxi squad, both pitched in Wednesday’s game after making the trip to Chicago with the team.
Someone who didn’t? Willians Astudillo, who has tested positive for COVID-19 and has not yet joined the Twins for their workouts.
“It’s been a slow road for him and none of it is due to anything that (he) really has done himself,” Baldelli said. “He’s kind of in this situation and waiting for his body to give him something that it’s basically by chance knowing which day he’s going to be cleared based on the tests that he has to pass to be here. I’m sure it’s very frustrating. I know it’s very frustrating for him.”
Twins set weekend plans
The Twins have announced their rotation plans for opening weekend beyond Opening Day starter Jose Berrios, who will take the ball on Friday night opposed by White Sox ace Lucas Giolito.
While the Twins were lining up Odorizzi to pitch the second game of the season on Saturday, he will instead be replaced by veteran Rich Hill. Hill will face Dallas Keuchel in the second game of the series. Kenta Maeda, another new addition to the Twins’ rotation, will take the ball for Sunday’s series finale in Chicago.
Homer Bailey is expected to pitch in the series against the Cardinals when the Twins return home to Target Field and the Twins haven’t yet announced who might fill in in Odorizzi’s absence.
Bailey started for the Twins against the Cubs and threw three innings — 68 pitches — in their 4-3 loss at Wrigley Field. Bailey gave up three home runs in his outing — two to Willson Contreras and one to Anthony Rizzo.
The Twins will have a workout day at Guaranteed Rate Field on Thursday.
MLB and the MLB Players Association are reportedly discussing expanding the playoffs from 10 teams to 16 this season. That idea had been discussed earlier this year.