Twins set to begin shortened season in Chicago
ST. PAUL — The Twins will open their 2020 campaign on July 24 against the White Sox in Chicago at Guaranteed Rate Field nearly 300 days after they concluded their 2019 season. Opening Day will come about four months later than it was originally scheduled to as the country continues to grapple with the spread of COVID-19.
The 60-game schedule was released Monday night and has the Twins playing 40 games against American League Central rivals and 20 more against National League Central teams. The regional schedule has been constructed in a way to cut down on travel.
While no fans will be allowed into Target Field — at least to start the season — all 60 games will be televised. Fifty-eight of them will be broadcast on FOX Sports North and the other two will be on FOX national.
The Twins will play three games in Chicago before heading home to host St. Louis Cardinals on July 28 in their home opener. Before they open their season, they are scheduled to play one exhibition game against the Cubs at Wrigley Field on July 22.
The Twins will play seven of their 10 games against the Cleveland Indians, the team that finished second in the division last season, at home. They will finish their season with five games at home against the Detroit Tigers and Cincinnati Reds.
Schedule quirks include having four of their six off days in September and a stretch of 20 games from mid-August through the beginning of September where they do not have a day off.
“You try to find ways to take advantage of those off days that you do have and having them clustered at the very end of the year is not what you’re really hoping for, but it doesn’t mean we can’t work through it. … We have a nice stretch in the middle of about I think it’s 36 games in 37 days, something that you wouldn’t normally see,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “I think our depth and I think some of the expanded rosters earlier in the year will help with this, and I know we’re also not alone.”
The Twins were projected to win the American League Central for the second straight year. And a schedule that has them playing both Central divisions should bode well for them — of the 10 teams, the Twins had by far had the best record. Five of the 10 finished under. 500 last year.
The Twins went 50-26 last year against their division opponents on their way to their division title, finishing 14-5 against both the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals, 13-6 against the White Sox and 9-10 against the Indians.
“I think with the sense of urgency, from day 1, every game matters. Not to say (in) the 162-game schedule it doesn’t matter, because they all do,” third baseman Josh Donaldson said. “…Every game has always been important, but right now you’re seeing some of these projections for some of these teams that wouldn’t even be in the equation, to have a chance to make the playoffs.”
With a shortened schedule — especially one in which star players could be lost for weeks at a time to illness — anything can happen. Catcher Mitch Garver said he thought the best teams would ultimately come out on top at the end of the season — though more than that will factor into the equation this season.
“The team that gets the luckiest is the team that’s going to prevail. If you can avoid the virus, which we’ve already learned from MLB and across the league that we’re pretty much expecting to have some positives and people are going to go down during the season, so it’s next man up mentality,” Garver said. “It looks like whoever gets the luckiest and has the least amount of sick players at the end could have a good chance of winning it.”
Hill throws BP
Lefty Rich Hill threw his first live batting practice session on Monday, tossing four innings. The 40-year-old starter had offseason elbow surgery, and the Twins were not expecting him back until early June to begin with.
Hill spent his break back home in Boston, setting up a net at a park near his house and displaying his bullpens over Zoom for Twins coaches and trainers to watch. Baldelli said everyone really wanted to lock in and take a good look at Hill throwing at Target Field on Monday. He came away pleased with what saw.
“He came in and looked really good. I think about halfway through his bullpen, too, he was already making adjustments, a couple of things and really locking in location-wise,” Baldelli said. “The stuff was good. He held it through four innings of work. Just a really good first day.”
The Twins are preparing for one of their shortest days of camp on Tuesday. After that, Baldelli said they would head into their first competitive intrasquad game on Wednesday and one with a more simulated real-game environment on Thursday. … Starter Homer Bailey also threw live batting practice on Monday.