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Twins trim pitching staff down to 13 ahead of rule implementation

After Sunday, teams will no longer be able to carry more than 13 on the 26-man roster.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Arizona Diamondbacks
Minnesota Twins manager Rocco Baldelli (center) talks with Minnesota Twins assistant bench coach Tony Diaz prior to the first inning of the game on Sunday against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field in Phoenix.
Joe Camporeale / USA TODAY Sports
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PHOENIX — Rocco Baldelli’s wish was to keep — or at least have the opportunity to keep — 14 pitchers on the active roster all year, and the Twins’ manager wanted to make that hope known loud and clear.

“I don’t ask for many headlines, but ‘Manager hopeful to keep 14 pitchers,’ would not be one that I would be opposed to seeing,” Baldelli said in May. “Please put that out there somewhere.”

But despite his hope, the day has finally come: After Sunday, teams will no longer be able to carry more than 13 on the 26-man roster.

The Twins adapted their roster a day early, activating Kyle Garlick (hamstring) from the injured list and placing reliever Trevor Megill on it with a right shoulder impingement. Baldelli said Megill, who last pitched on Tuesday in Seattle, felt soreness during that outing, necessitating the move.

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The 13-pitcher limit was announced before the 2020 season, but its implementation has been continuously kicked down the road, first because of COVID-19 and then in response to the lockout, after which teams had a condensed spring training, meaning starters didn’t have time to fully build up.

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Now, it’s finally here, and with less arms out in the bullpen, the end result will be teams having to rely more heavily on their starters.

On Saturday, Dylan Bundy became the first Twins pitcher to throw eight innings this season. The righty threw 107 pitches, and Baldelli said to expect more outings in which a starter ratchets his pitch count up near that — whether the Twins are leading or trailing.

“Our relievers I think, some of them are throwing as much as they can throw. They can’t throw more,” Baldelli said. “You’re going to look up in certain situations where you’re just going to have to ride your starter. … You’re going to have to start seeing more outings that are closer to 102 pitches than the 82 pitches, because there’s no other way to do it.”

Relying more on the starters while also trying to safeguard their health now becomes an even trickier balancing act. Near the beginning of the season, the Twins utilized a six-man rotation to give starters extra time to recover. Starters also threw shortened outings with more relievers available in the bullpen to cover the extra innings.

But now, the Twins will have to find that balance, to which Baldelli said there is “no one answer.”

“It’s another prime example of us on the field just having to be open to making adjustments and just dealing with things,” Baldelli said. “I would prefer to able to have 14 pitchers on the staff if we choose. But we can’t choose. There’s a lot of things we’d prefer that we’re not able to get. That’s OK.”

Winder update

While one reliever landed on the injured list on Sunday with a shoulder impingement, another one who has also been dealing with a shoulder impingement is almost ready to return.

Baldelli said the Twins have not yet firmly decided where Winder’s next outing will be — he already has thrown in two rehab games and a third is on the table — but they’re getting close to making a decision. When the rookie does return — and whether his return is in the rotation or the bullpen — is yet to be determined and will likely depend on the health of the rest of the roster.

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Winder has pitched in seven games for the Twins this season — three starts and four bullpen appearances — and has been on the injured list since May 21.

“I wouldn’t hesitate to put him in any role,” Baldelli said. “I honestly think that he could go out there and start. He could come out of the bullpen and back guys up and give you three, four, five innings an outing out of the bullpen and do that very well. I think it works fine either way for him.”

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