Shortly after landing on the injured list with shoulder soreness, Minnesota Twins pitcher Rich Hill sounded much like fellow sidelined starter Jake Odorizzi did days earlier: If he had to miss time now to try to ensure he would be healthy come October, that’s what he’d do.
Hill, who threw five scoreless innings in his first start of the season, seemed hopeful that skipping a turn in the rotation and getting ready for next week would be enough to calm the flare-up in his left shoulder.
“It’s definitely frustrating because I was on a regimented throwing program the entire time during our break (since spring training), but my throwing program continued to stay pretty steady,” Hill said. “I stayed up with bullpens. I was throwing 75-90-pitch bullpens, and I think some of this presents as you would see maybe in the third week of spring training.”
The number of pitchers going down with inflammation in their throwing shoulder is something that has happened at a quicker rate this year than in a normal April, or first month of a season, Hill said.
With such a quick ramp-up period this summer, a rash of starting pitcher injuries have cropped up all around Major League Baseball. The Twins now have three starters on the injured list: Hill, Odorizzi (back) and Homer Bailey (biceps tendinitis).
“What you see going on in baseball right now is obviously disappointing. You never want to see guys get hurt. You don’t wanna anybody go down,” Hill said. “And why that is happening. I mean, I think the logical answer is because of the quick ramp-up and where we’re at. But I can’t really point to that for myself. Obviously I just need to take care of this and look forward to getting back out there.”
Hill has not yet thrown a bullpen session, but he expects to travel with the team on its upcoming road trip and throw one sometime over the weekend.
In the meantime, Hill’s injured list stint is retroactive to July 31, and the Twins have not made a corresponding move, giving them a bit of flexibility. The Twins might not necessarily make one, as they must trim their roster down to 28 players on Thursday.
MLB and the MLB Players Association reportedly have been talking about keeping rosters at 30 players for the time being as teams deal with injuries and outbreaks of COVID-19. Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said there have been some conversations about that.
“I think everyone would probably benefit in some ways from it,” Baldelli said. “I can also understand why we’re trying to get more towards a traditional roster, and we’re still going to have extra players, more than we would normally have to work with. So that’s a benefit, in and of itself, as opposed to saying, ‘There needs to be 30.’ It’s nice to have some extra players either way.”
Taxi squad rules
Whether or not the roster expands, the Twins will bring three extra players as their taxi squad on the road trip, though they have not announced yet who they will bring.
Two of the players on the taxi squad for the team’s first road trip — Caleb Thielbar and Jorge Alcala — are now on the active roster.
If the league goes ahead as planned and rosters drop to 28 players, Baldelli said the taxi squad could grow to five (if they do make a corresponding move for Hill; four otherwise) while they are on the road. However, anybody dropped from the roster at that point would not be able to come back for 10 days except to replace an injured or sick player.
Homecoming for Dobnak
Twins pitcher Randy Dobnak went to the final Pirates game at Three Rivers Stadium and the first at PNC Park as a young fan. Growing up in the Pittsburgh area, Dobnak said he went to every Pirates home opener with his family.
Dobnak will start on the mound against his hometown team on Wednesday for the Twins, and while his friends and family won’t be able to watch him pitch in person, Dobnak is looking forward to pitching at PNC Park.
“You go to Pirates games and if you’re a baseball fan, if you play baseball as a kid, your dream is to one day possibly pitch for your hometown team,” Dobnak said. “In my case, it’s a little different, but it’s still going to be pretty surreal being out there on that mound after watching countless games, spending countless dollars going to games.”