ST. PAUL — The Twins shifted Sean Poppen to their taxi squad on Sunday, Aug. 9, after the righty threw more than 50 pitches a day earlier — and 15 the day before that.
In doing so, the Twins selected the contract of Cory Gearrin and maintained their balance of 16 pitchers on the 28-man roster, leaving them with a three-man bench.
That’s a shift from even earlier in the season when the Twins began the year with 15 pitchers on their 30-man roster. But the extra pitchers have proven necessary with a rash of pitcher injuries throughout the game.
“There are times you want to let your starters go, there are times you want to get your relievers up and get them in games and pitch them three of four, but we also know that taking care of them both near-term, immediate-term and long-term, it would probably be better to act the way we’re acting and to just be proactive and take care of them,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “So, because of that, you end up having to carry an extra guy or two to make sure that you can function on a daily basis.”
Though it leaves the bench thin, it’s a necessity while starters aren’t fully stretched out to 100 pitches and relievers are having to come in and cover more innings themselves as a result.
“Sometimes we look at each other and we’re talking, ‘Remember what it was like to play with a 25-man roster?’ We kind of ask that question,” Baldelli said. “And now we’re sitting here with a 28-man roster and there are days where it’s tough to make it work, so we’ll get by and we’ll maneuver any way we have to but we are going to continue to take care of those arms.”
Gearrin, who was traveling with the team on the taxi squad and has been training at the Twins’ alternate site in St. Paul, is an eight-year MLB veteran who pitched for both the Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees last season, compiling a 4.07 earned-run average in 55 1/3 innings pitched.
“Obviously, I’m really excited to be here,” he said. “…Being able to be with the team is definitely helpful. Definitely, being here versus being over at the alternate site, you get in the flow of the everyday rhythm, seeing the pace.”
For years, Marwin Gonzalez had resisted his father’s calls to change his stance from the left side of the plate. But after a year in which he said he missed a lot of fastballs, Gonzalez relented.
“I was either fouling them off or hitting fly balls because I couldn’t get to it. Nowdays everybody is throwing the rising fastball,” Gonzalez said. “I made a little, a little change in my bat path that will help a little bit. Seems all season I was like that, and it didn’t feel really physical at the beginning, but I’m still getting used to it.”
Gonzalez has moved his hands up and his legs are more bent, as opposed to the more straight-up stance he had been using from the left side.
Coming into Sunday, Gonzalez was hitting .296 with a .387 on-base percentage and .519 slugging percentage as a left-handed batter against righties. Both of his home runs and all four of his RBIs had come from the left side of the plate.
“I had my stance for eight years and it was kind of 100 percent turnaround from the way that I used to hit or I used to stand,” he said. “ It’s kind of hard. Obviously, it’s gonna come with the work that you put in every day and just work every day and watching videos and talking to the hitting coaches; that’s what I’ve been doing every day.
The Twins have pushed Kenta Maeda back a day to give him extra rest. He will throw Wednesday against the Brewers.
They have not announced a starter for Tuesday, but Baldelli said he expects that they are “going to throw a number of guys on Tuesday in one way, shape or form.”