MINNEAPOLIS - Minnesota Twins players and team officials found themselves in a bit of a scramble mode Wednesday, in the hours after players and owners finally came to an agreement on a 60-game season.
Players and staff have to find a way to get to Minnesota within a week, and perhaps adding to the stress, those that don't already have homes in the Twin Cities have to find a place to live for the next three months.
It took roughly a month of negotiations between the players’ union and Major League Baseball, but they made the agreement on a 2020 season Tuesday night. The MLB regular season will be 60 games, players will report to training camp by July 1 and the postseason will involve 10 teams.
We’ll have baseball more than three months after Spring Training was shut down due to the Coronavirus pandemic. It was March 12, and Opening Day was about two weeks away.
For the Minnesota Twins, players and team officials will report to Target Field next week. The MLB regular season schedule hasn’t officially been released, but the Twins will likely have their season opener around July 23. They’ll play 40 games against the American League Central Division, the Indians, Tigers, Royals and White Sox.
The remaining 20 games will be against National League Central Division teams: The Milwaukee Brewers, Cincinnati Reds, Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals. Both leagues will use a designated hitter.
Coming off winning 101 games, winning their first AL Central title since 2010 and having Rocco Baldelli win AL Manager of the Year, the Twins will be playing with a sense of urgency to get back to the postseason. With a 60-game season, it’ll be that much more important to get off to a fast start.
“You’ve got to be on your game and that’s the best part is every team is in the same situation as we are. We can’t sit there and feel bad for ourselves that we didn’t have enough time to get ready or this is a short season. Everybody is in the same ballpark, no pun intended, so that’s the best part of it,” Twins closer Taylor Rogers told Fox 9 on Wednesday. “A lot of us have been talking, it’s kind of like a college season. College is what, 56 games, and you’ve got to get in there and get to a good start and keep it rolling through the 50 games. Hopefully we can get into the playoffs and make our run there.”
It’s likely been a stressful and difficult stretch for Rogers, who serves as the Twins’ rep for the MLB players’ union.
The biggest hurdle once baseball starts will be teams staying safe, healthy and preventing the spread of Covid-19. The Twins will have a staggered return to Target Field for their return to training, and strict Covid-19 guidelines will be in place.
The real challenge will be when the Twins hit the road, and don’t want to be confined to their hotel rooms when not at the ballpark. For Rogers, it comes down to accountability.
“A lot of it is going to be on you, on the honor system. Don’t be the one person that’s going to mess it up for everybody else. When you want to go do something or something like that, you need to remember it’s about your team, not just yourself,” Rogers said.
So what are the biggest advantages for the Twins? They added free agent star Josh Donaldson to a lineup that hit an MLB record 308 home runs last year. Donaldson hit 37 homers last year with the Atlanta Braves, tied for second-most in his career. He also had 94 RBI and slugged .521.
They’ve also got a solid foundation with starting pitching. Jose Berrios went 14-8 with a 3.68 earned run average in 32 starts. Jake Odorizzi was 15-7 with a 3.51 ERA in 30 starts. The Twins added starters Homer Bailey and Rich hill in free agency, and both should be ready for the shortened season.
The bottom line is baseball will be back, and the Twins have a division title to defend. Let’s enjoy the rest of the summer.