Whoever Minnesota plays in next week’s opening round of the playoffs, the Twins will throw Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios and Michael Pineda.
“It’s what we’re looking at, and that’s the way it’s lined up,” manager Rocco Baldelli said before Wednesday’s game against the Detroit Tigers at Target Field. “I think we’re lined up very well right now with the guys we have going Wednesday, Friday, Saturday (this week). It’s a great trio to be throwing out there.”
Before Tuesday night’s 5-4, extra-inning victory over the Tigers, the Baldelli told reporters the team’s next three starters would compose the playoff rotation for the best-of-three-games first round. Maeda started on Wednesday against the Tigers; fellow right-handers Berrios and Pindea will start Friday and Saturday, respectively, against the Cincinnati Reds.
MLB teams generally have until the morning of their first game to set playoff rosters.
“Obviously, we’re not going to make any official announcements, but what we’re looking at, it’s going to be difficult to make any changes,” Baldelli said.
That leaves left-hander Rich Hill, the team’s most experienced postseason pitcher with 13 appearances and 12 starts, to pitch in the bullpen. Jake Odorizzi, the Twins’ best starter and an all-star in 2019, is on the injury list because of a blister on the middle of his right hand.
At the start of Wednesday’s game, the Twins were lined up as the No. 4 seed and set to play the New York Yankees in the first round at Target Field. But they were also a half-game out of first in the American League Central; a division win would make them the No. 2 (vs. Toronto) or No. 3 seed (vs. Cleveland).
The Yankees swept Minnesota in last year’s division series and have eliminated the Twins in five of their past six postseason appearances.
The Twins are off Thursday before finishing the regular season with three games against the Reds, who are battling Milwaukee and San Francisco for one of the National League’s two wild-card spots.
Closer Taylor Rogers, the Twins’ winning pitcher on Tuesday, said none of the Twins are looking ahead to a postseason matchup just yet.
“We’re just worried about winning these games here,” he said. “When the Reds come to town, if we win some games there, that would help both us and the Giants out, so we have double incentive to beat the Reds, which would be great. We don’t want to get too far ahead of things. We’ve got to take care of business against Detroit, take care of business against Cincy.”
Designated hitter Nelson Cruz, who leads the Twins with 16 home runs and is second with 32 RBIs, was left out of the lineup for the fourth straight game because of soreness in his right knee.
Baldelli said Cruz could be available to pinch hit but the idea is keep their clubhouse leader healthy for a deep postseason run.
“I’d really like to not put Nellie in a position where he’s going out there and can’t be himself,” Baldelli said.
Cruz was scratched before last Saturday’s game against the Cubs in Chicago.
“Yes, we want to win the division. Yes, we want to put our best club out there and Nellie is certainly a prominent member of our best lineup when we’re putting it out there,” Baldelli said. “But if we ever put him out there at less than 100 percent and it set him back at all, I think we would all regret it. We’re not going to do that. We’re going to give him another day.”
Baldelli said he was glad to see his team have fun Tuesday with the bathrobes they were given by third baseman Josh Donaldson before the game. Cruz wore his in the dugout, and put it on teammates who hit home runs — Byron Buxton, Mitch Garver and Max Kepler.
After winning the game with a 10th-inning single, Kepler was adorned on the field after the game, as well. The Twins rallied twice to beat the Tigers. Last year, the Twins had the Rally Squirrel; this year it’s the Rally Robes.
“Our guys are having a good time. We want our players to have a good time,” Baldelli said. “The more fun your guys are having, generally the better things go, the better everything goes; the more games you win, the more fun you have.
“If our guys are tight, we’re not going to play well. No baseball team plays well when they’re tight.”