The Minnesota Twins entered Tuesday night’s game 12 games back of the division-leading White Sox, tied with the Tigers at the bottom of the American League Central.
But hours before a tough stretch of games against the New York Yankees and Houston Astros kicked off, Twins general manager Thad Levine said the Twins were still at a point where they could be patient, taking more time to assess the team before making a decision on whether or not it would be selling off before the July 30 trade deadline.
“We can take a little bit of a longer path look at it. You’ve got tremendous heft here on this homestand, playing two of the best American League teams that are out there, of really getting a sense of where we stack up against them,” Levine said. “But we’re going to continue to evaluate the team and use every bit of time we have to be patient in our decision making. In that regard, it’s a little bit different than it’s been the last couple of years.”
As opposed to the past two seasons when the Twins were firmly in contention, looking to improve upon a playoff team, the Twins have found themselves in an unexpected position, vastly underperforming expectations.
They have many veterans on expiring contracts, among them Nelson Cruz, Michael Pineda, Andrelton Simmons and Hansel Robles, who could be targets for other teams if the Twins do decide to become sellers.
Levine said the Twins are using this time to do as much “objective evaluation of what our real chances are and what path is most prudent to take,” to try to help the team win today or try to help the franchise win in the future.
And while the Twins haven’t yet deemed themselves sellers, other clubs haven’t yet started to treat them as such.
“I think, like us, a lot of teams in the industry view us as a very talented club that is just ready to go on a run,” Levine said. “I think there’s some degree of, it’s early in the season. There also may be some degree of decorum that they’re not calling us yet to insinuate that they think we could be selling.”
On Friday, Twins third baseman Josh Donaldson questioned whether it was a coincidence that Gerrit Cole’s spin rate numbers went down during his last start after four minor leaguers had been suspended after being caught using sticky foreign substances to doctor baseballs.
On Tuesday, Cole responded.
“In regards to Josh, specifically, I kind of felt it was a bit of a low-hanging fruit, but he’s entitled to his opinion and to voice his opinion,” Cole told Yankees reporters over Zoom.
Cole, during the same Zoom, was asked whether he had used Spider Tack, a substance used to enhance performance that MLB is trying to crack down on, while pitching.
“I don’t,” he said, before taking a long pause, “I don’t know. I don’t know if — I don’t quite know how to answer that to be honest.”
Cole is scheduled to start on Wednesday night at Target Field against the Twins.
Byron Buxton began a rehab assignment on Tuesday over in St. Paul, one which manager Rocco Baldelli said he expects to last at least three game.
Buxton (hip) served as the Saints’ designated hitter on Tuesday and Baldelli said he expects Buxton to play in the field at least for half of the game, if not more, on Wednesday. Buxton then may play on Thursday or may take a day, Baldelli said.
“I do think he’s going to play at least three games, at least two in the field,” Baldelli said.
Kenta Maeda will join him on Wednesday in St. Paul, where he is expected to throw 50-55 pitches in his rehab outing.
Max Kepler (hamstring) is not yet running at 100 percent, Baldelli said, so his stay on the injured list could be a bit longer than the Twins were originally anticipating, Baldelli said. Kepler went on the injured list on May 30 and the Twins were expecting him to take somewhere between 10 days and two weeks to return.
The Twins did get one center fielder back on Tuesday, welcoming Rob Refsnyder back from the seven-day concussion list. To make room to the roster, they optioned Gilberto Celestino.
Refsnyder suffered his concussion running into the wall in Baltimore trying to chase after a home run. Refsnyder said he woke up in the middle of the night not feeling great and as time went by, he started feeling a little nauseous.
“(It) definitely won’t be the last embarrassing thing I do on a baseball field,” Refsnyder said. “When you play hard and you try to make plays, you’re going to mess up, especially in our game, probably more than you’re going to succeed. Just tried to keep that in perspective. I don’t want to be the butt of a joke, but it won’t be the last embarrassing thing I do on the field.”
Minor leaguer Matt Canterino, one of the Twins’ top pitching prospects does not have structural damage in his elbow, an MRI revealed. Canterino was placed on the injured list with elbow inflammation over the weekend. … Reliever Juan Minaya cleared waivers and accepted his outright assignment to Triple-A St. Paul. … Randy Dobnak will start opposite Cole on Wednesday. Dobnak has not faced the Yankees since the 2019 American League Division Series.