FORT MYERS, Fla. — Max Kepler has yet to make his spring debut for the Twins. Same for Marwin Gonzalez, Jorge Polanco and Byron Buxton.
Kepler, who has been dealing with some soreness in his back, is scheduled to play on Friday, Feb. 28, for the first time. Gonzalez, who had a knee procedure this offseason, is expected back next, manager Rocco Baldelli has said. Jorge Polanco, who had ankle surgery, will come after that, followed by Byron Buxton, who underwent season-ending surgery to repair his shoulder labrum last fall.
While the Twins would love for their regulars to be fully healthy and out on the field playing, there’s one benefit to them not being able to play, and that’s the ability to lay eyes on some of their prospects.
“That’s a positive that we’re kind of getting from our other guys being a little later and coming out a little later in camp. We’re going to see these guys play. We’ve seen a bunch of them already,” Baldelli said. “They’re going to get out there and see the field. We’ve got a few other guys that are down for assorted reasons. We’re not going to overuse any of these guys, but they’re going to get a chance to play. I think it’s going to be a great experience for them.”
Trevor Larnach, the team’s No. 4 prospect according to MLBPipeline, has been impressing early, adding another hit in Thursday’s 3-3 exhibition game tie with the Philadelphia Phillies in Dunedin, after hitting home runs in his previous two games.
Alex Kirilloff is due to play in his second spring game on Friday after welcoming a baby last week. Royce Lewis, Brent Rooker, Gilberto Celestino, Travis Blankenhorn and Ryan Jeffers are all among those who have seen ample playing time in early spring games.
“A lot of the times, young players don’t get a chance to actually play and they don’t get the at-bats they really need and then they go back to camp at some point and they try to ramp up quickly,” Baldelli said. “I think this is something where these guys are all getting the work they can use right now.”
Homer Bailey is slated to make his Twins’ pitching debut on Friday at Hammond Stadium against the Red Sox. Bailey, who the Twins signed this offseason to a one-year deal, is the last member of the Twins’ rotation to make a start this spring.
After him, Jose Berrios will make his second start of the spring on Saturday against the Pirates. Kenta Maeda made his first start of the spring earlier in the week, as did Jake Odorizzi.
Randy Dobnak and Devin Smeltzer, who are competing for the final spot in the rotation with Jhoulys Chacin and Lewis Thorpe, have each started twice. Dobnak’s second start came Thursday in Dunedin, where he pitched three innings and gave up one run — a homer to Reese McGuire. Thorpe is the only one who hasn’t pitched; he is away from camp dealing with a personal matter.
Jake Cave went 3-for-3 with a double and a home run Thursday against the Blue Jays.
The Twins allowed just one hit before the ninth inning of Thursday’s game.