CHICAGO — Joe Ryan’s first opportunity to hit as a major leaguer might also be his last. And the Minnesota Twins rookie is acutely aware of it.
“I definitely have (thought about it), so I think just appreciating the experience, that’s the whole goal,” Ryan said.
It’s not inconceivable that Ryan, who is scheduled to start on Wednesday for the Twins, might be the last Twins pitcher to hit — ever. The universal designated hitter, which was adopted during last year’s COVID-19-shortened season — has been talked about for years. National League pitchers have reverted back to hitting this year, but with the collective bargaining agreement set to end after this season, it’s very possible that pitchers hitting will be a thing of the past after this year.
Count Twins manager Rocco Baldelli, who has only ever played and coached in the American League, among those rooting for that to happen.
“Bring on the DH,” Baldelli said. “I’m perfectly good with that move. … I know there are a lot of fans out there, a lot of baseball people that will miss the National League game in a big way. It’s the way that many have grown up watching and enjoying and loving baseball. But where we’re at today, I personally believe the right move is to just bring the DH in all the way around.”
Ryan, a California native, is one of those people. He grew up rooting for the San Francisco Giants, watching the National League game. While pitchers hitting was “always part of it for him,” he understands, too, why that element of the game is likely to go away.
He hasn’t hit much since high school, though he very much remembers the one at-bat he got while in college at Cal State Northridge. In preparation for Wednesday’s start, he said he has taken a few swings in the cage recently.
“I think the novelty of getting a chance to hit is exciting,” Ryan said. “At the same time, respect for the game and for other players in the game, if it’s going to give other guys opportunities that wouldn’t get those, that’s an amazing experience as well for somebody to extend their career.”
The guy he was traded for, Nelson Cruz, would surely agree.
His new manager enjoyed two and a half years of watching Cruz up close —and he’s also ready to no longer have to have to worry about one of his pitchers potentially getting injured while hitting.
“I’ll enjoy hopefully these last couple of games in this way, but we kind of see it coming,” Baldelli said. “When it’s going to come exactly, I don’t think any of us actually know that, but I do think it’s coming, and I’ll be more than OK going to bed at night once the DH is everywhere.”
The Twins welcomed back catcher Mitch Garver on Tuesday, activating him from the injured list after a three-game rehab stint with the Triple-A Saints. Garver had been on the injured list since Aug. 27 with low back tightness. To make room on the roster, the Twins optioned Ben Rortvedt to Triple-A.
They also welcomed back shortstop Andrelton Simmons, reinstating him from the restricted list. Simmons met the team in Chicago after remaining in the United States when the club went to Toronto. Simmons, who is in the process of applying for his permanent residency card, had to remain in the country so as not to reset the process.
Infielder Drew Maggi’s first stint as a major leaguer came and went without the 32-year-old seeing any game action. Maggi, who was called up on Saturday after 11 years in the minor leagues, was optioned to Triple-A on Tuesday, ahead of the Twins’ series with the Cubs to make room for Simmons.
To make room on the 40-man roster for Simmons’ reinstatement, the Twins transferred Lewis Thorpe (left shoulder impingement) to the 60-day injured list.