MINNEAPOLIS -- Willians Astudillo was behind the plate for a very important pitch Sunday afternoon, catching a throw from his mother, Ana Mercedes Astudillo.
Saturday night after the game, Astudillo was asked about it and he, in turn, asked his mom.
“We already practiced in the parking lot in my apartment,” Astudillo said before the first pitch.
Astudillo was also behind the plate for Sunday’s game, starting in his first appearance off the injured list. He also led off for the first time this season, going 1-for-5 with a double.
The Twins activated Astudillo from the IL on Sunday morning, May 11. He had been there since April 28 after straining his hamstring the night before.
He traveled with the team on the road trip to New York and Toronto, working his way back to health under the watchful eyes of the Twins’ staff.
“Just, obviously, focusing on my hamstring and getting stronger with my foundation, like my legs, just getting my legs stronger,” Astudillo said. “That was the main key of the rehab process, and here we are today. Everything is going well, and I’m just ready to play baseball.”
For the first time this season, manager Rocco Baldelli slid Astudillo into the leadoff spot. Facing a lefty, Max Kepler was moved down in the lineup and Baldelli wanted to rest Mitch Garver, who has also led off this season, because he had been behind the plate a lot recently.
“I think probably the most important quality of a good leadoff hitter is just being a good hitter as opposed to trying to fit a lot of different people into a specific mold and then dubbing them a leadoff hitter. So I think Willians will fill the role well,” Baldelli said.
Twins move to seven-man bullpen
In the corresponding move, the Twins optioned young reliever Fernando Romero back to Triple-A Rochester.
Romero has thrown eight innings out of the bullpen for the Twins this season, giving up five runs in his brief time out. Romero was a starter previously, but the Twins have shifted him to the bullpen, and Baldelli said he thinks the 24-year-old’s comfort out of the bullpen has been improving.
“I think his opportunities were so limited here that it’s hard to grow, because I think you need game action and being able to see hitters to grow and actually make those adjustments in game,” Romero said. “You can make adjustments all you want and work on things pre-game. But to able to take them in the game sometimes is another thing, and he didn’t really have that opportunity.”
With that, the Twins now have a seven-man bullpen, which is becoming more and more uncommon in the game as teams opt for an extra arm and carry a thinner bench. The Twins are able to do so, in part, because of the length they’ve gotten from their starters recently.
“Our bullpen, we’ve had a little bit of a luxury where our starters have thrown exceptionally well,” Baldelli said. “Our bullpen’s been pretty well-rested. We have the ability to use those guys as we see fit because of that so, yeah, it gives you a little bit of a cushion where it’s a long year and we kind of play it out, look at the schedule and see how everything fits. … I would say it does give us ability to do that because of the way that our guys have thrown.”
Addison Reed update
Addison Reed has made two outings on rehab at Triple-A Rochester with mixed results. In his first, he threw a scoreless inning with a walk and a strikeout.
On Friday, Reed gave up five hits and three runs in one inning against the Rays’ Triple-A team. Reed threw another inning on Sunday, giving up a run on three hits in his outing.
But still, Baldelli said they’ve seen some of the things that they’ve wanted from him, and that the slider and the “characteristics of the fastball,” and what Reed was trying to do with it checked out well.
“I know the results maybe weren’t what he was looking for, but the reports that we get were positive,” Baldelli said. “We checked the actual substance of all the actual pitches that were thrown and get a pretty detailed report on all that stuff. It came back OK. He’s feeling good physically and finally getting a chance to get out and pitch and see hitters, which is important. Ultimately, the reports were good.”