- Twins center fielder Byron Buxton, who hasn’t played since Tuesday, is dealing with a mild hamstring strain, Do-Hyoung Park of MLB.com tweets. Buxton was out of the Twins’ lineup again for their game in Anaheim on Friday, but it remains to be seen whether he’ll need to go to the IL. The 27-year-old has gotten off to an otherworldly start this season with a .469/.528/.1.094 line and five homers in 36 trips to the plate. He has already posted 1.2 fWAR, which matches the figure he put up last year in 99 more PA (135).
Friday’s coronavirus-related updates from the majors:
- The Astros placed second baseman Jose Altuve, third baseman Alex Bregman, designated hitter Yordan Alvarez, catcher Martin Maldonado and infielder Robel Garcia on the COVID injured list Wednesday. They’re unlikely to return for the team’s five-game road trip, manager Dusty Baker told Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle and other reporters. The Astros begin a three-game series in Seattle on Friday, and they’re scheduled to play in Colorado next Tuesday and Wednesday.
- The White Sox announced that they have reinstated right-hander Dylan Cease from the COVID IL and optioned righty Zack Burdi to their alternate site. Cease was only on the list for two days, but he’s already set to return after “a series of negative tests,” the team stated. He’ll make his third start of the season Saturday against the Red Sox. Cease logged a 3.86 ERA with nine strikeouts and six walks over 9 1/3 innings in his first two appearances.
- Twins manager Rocco Baldelli revealed that he received a false positive test on Thursday, Betsy Helfand of the St. Paul Pioneer Press tweets. He isolated in his office and was then cleared after three or four more tests. The Twins aren’t out of the woods yet, though, as Baldelli said (via Do-Hyoung Park of MLB.com) that they’ve had “further COVID-related issues in the clubhouse” on Friday. He couldn’t offer further details.
- The Phillies with go without three members of manager Joe Girardi’s staff because of COVID protocols, according to Todd Zolecki of MLB.com. Hitting coach Joe Dillon, third base coach Dusty Wathan and bullpen coach Dave Lundquist are all away from the team. First base coach Paco Figueroa will move across the diamond to third, and coaching assistant Bobby Meacham will take over at first, Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
11:39am: Simmons did test positive and has exhibited “very mild” symptoms, president of baseball operations Derek Falvey announced to reporters (Twitter links via Dan Hayes of The Athletic). There were no other positives on the roster. Simmons will be away from the team for at least a 10-day period, under the league’s 2021 health and safety protocols.
11:23am: The Twins announced a series of roster moves Wednesday, placing shortstop Andrelton Simmons on the Covid-19 related injured list, selecting the contract of JT Riddle in his place and promoting top prospect Alex Kirilloff as the 27th man for today’s doubleheader. Simmons won’t occupy a spot on the 40-man roster while on the Covid-19 list, so an additional corresponding move to accommodate Riddle isn’t necessary.
Twins skipper Rocco Baldelli also tells reporters that the club expects to activate third baseman Josh Donaldson for the second game of today’s doubleheader and adds that the organization has multiple members going through contact tracing (Twitter links via Betsy Helfand of the St. Paul Pioneer Press).
With Simmons sidelined for at least 10 days from the point of the test, the Twins can utilize Riddle and Jorge Polanco at shortstop in his place. Polanco was the team’s primary shortstop for the past several seasons but shifted over to second base as the club eyed a defensive upgrade up the middle. However, playing Polanco at shortstop regularly will make it easier to get the hot-hitting Luis Arraez into the lineup on a daily basis now that Donaldson is set to return at third base.
Donaldson ripped a blistering double to the left-center gap in his first at-bat of the season but pulled up a bit when heading into second base. The Twins opted to take the cautious route and place him on the 10-day IL due to a hamstring strain rather than chance a few days of rest and Donaldson worsening the injury. It’s surely frustrating for Twins fans to have already seen Donaldson sidelined with an IL stint, though if there’s a silver lining, it’s that the injury was to his hamstring and not to the calf muscle that has given him frequent trouble over the past three seasons.
It’ll be interesting to see what happens with Kirilloff moving forward. While he was announced as the 27th man for the upcoming doubleheader, we’re also nearing the point of the schedule at which he could remain in the Major Leagues without accruing a full year of big league service. We’re not quite to that point yet, which makes this a likely one-day promotion, but by this weekend he could return and the promotion could carry some more permanence.
The 23-year-old Kirilloff made his big league debut for the Twins in the playoffs last year and has rated as one of the game’s best all-around prospects since being selected in the first round of the 2016 draft. His proximity to MLB readiness undoubtedly played a role in Minnesota’s decision to non-tender Eddie Rosario this winter.
Kirilloff seemingly had a chance to make the big league roster this spring, but he struggled through a .129/.182/.258 showing in 33 plate appearances. That small sample notwithstanding, he’s a lifetime .317/.365/.498 hitter in the minors and widely regarded as one of baseball’s top 30 overall prospects. Even if it doesn’t happen within the next week, at some point before long, Kirilloff should be expected to get an audition as the everyday left fielder for the Twins.
Josh Donaldson ran the bases well enough progress to the next portion of his rehab, suggesting a return to the Twins as early as Monday or Tuesday, per Do-Hyoung Park of MLB.com (via Twitter). When Donaldson does return, he’ll put his perfect season on the line. He doubled in his only plate appearance of the season before straining his hamstring. Luis Arraez, however, has maintained the potency of the hot corner while Donaldson’s been away. Arraez has slashed .381/.462/.571 while starting six of the seven games since the injury. Willians Astudillo started on Arraez’s day off, going 0-2 while driving in a run with a sac fly. Elsewhere…
- Braves setup man Chris Martin will be eligible to come off the injured list on April 17th, but manager Brian Snitker doesn’t think it will be that simple, per Mark Bowman of MLB.com (via Twitter). Martin’s shoulder only recently became an area of concern. Still, Martin is looking at a longer-than-minimal stay on the injured list. In the meantime, Sean Newcomb and Jacob Webb will have the opportunity to raise their stock in the Atlanta pen, per the Athletic’s David O’Brien (via Twitter). Webb from the right side and Newcomb from the left will try to soak up some of Martin’s setup duties.
- Brusdar Graterol is readying to make his season debut. Per Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times (via Twitter), Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, “Everything looked good, so we’re trying to figure out the next step. We’re hoping to get him back soon. Just hesitant to put a day on it.” Graterol got a late start in preparing for the season, leaving Blake Treinen, Corey Knebel, and Kenley Jansen as the late-game righties available to Roberts. The Dodgers have high hopes that the 22-year-old Graterol can be weaponized either as a traditional setup man or as a multi-inning option out of the pen.
The Twins will place outfielder/first baseman Brent Rooker on the 10-day injured list with a cervical strain in his neck and select the contract of left-hander Brandon Waddell from their alternate training site today, the club announced. Hard-throwing young righty Edwar Colina was transferred from the 10-day IL to the 60-day IL to open a spot on the 40-man roster for Waddell. Colina is dealing with inflammation in his right elbow.
Rooker, 26, was the No. 35 overall pick back in the 2017 draft and has had some rough luck early in his big league career. He burst onto the scene with a .316/.381/.579 slash through seven games last summer before sustaining a fractured forearm when he was hit by a pitch. That injury ended his season, and Rooker will now head back to the injured list after just appearing in just three games in 2021.
Rooker is a bat-first prospect who isn’t likely viewed as the team’s long-term answer in left field, but his power bat is still expected to get a legitimate audition when he’s healthy. He can shift between first, left field and DH, and given that his most recent minor league work in 2019 produced a .282/.399/.530 batting line in 67 games between Double-A and Triple-A, it’s not hard to see why the organization is bullish on him. The Twins did not give an immediate indication as to how long the new injury is expected to sideline Rooker.
As for the 26-year-old Waddell, an eventual big league audition with the Twins appeared likely after the former Pirates farmhand turned heads in Spring Training. Waddell yielded five runs in 9 1/3 innings, but he also struck out 15 of the 36 hitters he faced (41.7 percent) and showed what the Twins felt was a demonstrably improved arsenal. Minnesota claimed him off waivers from Pittsburgh at the end of the 2020 season and managed to sneak Waddell through waivers in late February, but his absence from the 40-man roster proved brief.
Waddell has a pair of minor league options remaining, so the Twins will be able to send him down to their alternate site in St. Paul without exposing him to waivers for a second time. For now, he’ll join Taylor Rogers and Caleb Thielbar as a third lefty in manager Rocco Baldelli’s bullpen.
The Twins have placed Josh Donaldson on the 10-day injured list because of a mild right hamstring strain, per the team. The move is retroactive to April 2nd. Outfielder Brent Rooker has been recalled to take his roster spot.
Donaldson left the Twins’ opener after doubling in his first at-bat of the year. Donaldson has, of course, dealt with myriad injuries since his heyday in Toronto. This looks to be another of the ticky-tack variety. That’s not to diminish the difficulty of dealing with this sort of injury, as hamstring injuries are notoriously fickle. Still, the assumption right now would be that Donaldson shouldn’t miss too much time. Luis Arraez is slated to play third base today, and he could be a frequent replacement while Donaldson is out.
Rooker debuted last season with 21 plate appearances. He notched seven hits, including two doubles and a homer. A first round pick by the Twins in 2017, Rooker is a power bat who could be especially helpful as a pinch-hitter for the rest of the current series while they don’t have a designated hitter at their disposal. The Twins return to American League rules on Monday when they face the Tigers in Detroit.
Twins third baseman Josh Donaldson doubled in his first at-bat of 2021 on Thursday, but the club then pulled him out of the game as a result of right hamstring tightness. The Twins will re-evaluate Donaldson on Friday, manager Rocco Baldelli told Do-Hyoung Park of MLB.com and other reporters. While this fortunately doesn’t appear to be a calf problem for Donaldson, who has dealt with those in previous seasons, it’s nonetheless disheartening for Minnesota to see him deal with yet another health problem at the outset of the campaign. The former AL MVP only played in 165 regular-season games from 2017-18 as a Blue Jay and Indian, and after a healthy 2019 with the Braves, the Twins signed him to a four-year, $92MM contract. Donaldson appeared in just 28 of a possible 60 games in the first year of the deal, though.
- The Red Sox and right-handed reliever Matt Barnes discussed a contract extension during the spring, but there’s little optimism about a deal coming together, Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com writes. That leaves the 30-year-old on track to reach free agency next winter, and in the meantime, he’ll earn $4.5MM this season. The hard-throwing Barnes, a career-long member of the Red Sox, has pitched to a 4.08 ERA with a 29.9 percent strikeout rate in 337 1/3 innings since debuting in 2014. He amassed 60-plus innings in each season from 2016-19.
- Free-agent right-hander Brad Peacock is healthy after undergoing arthroscopic shoulder surgery last October and will hold a showcase for interested teams Friday in Florida, MLBTR has learned. The 33-year-old Peacock’s shoulder troubles limited him to a mere three appearances in 2020, his last season as an Astro, but he was an effective swingman for the club during the few preceding campaigns. Between 2016-19, Peacock recorded a 3.48 ERA and a 28.7 percent strikeout rate across 128 appearances (42 starts) and 320 1/3 innings.
- Catcher Curt Casali earned a $500K bonus when he landed a spot on the Giants’ season-opening roster, per Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area. Casali, whom the Giants signed to a $1.5MM contract in free agency, will back up Buster Posey. He earned that deal after a three-year stretch with the Reds in which he hit a respectable .260/.345/.440 with 18 home runs in 485 plate appearances.
TODAY: Bob Nightengale of USA Today provides the details on Dobnak’s extension. He’ll make $700K this season, $800K in 2022, $1.5MM in 2023, $2.25MM in 2024, and $3MM in 2025, his final year of initial team control. The three team options will be worth $6MM in 2026, $7MM in 2027, and $8.5MM in 2028 with buyouts of $1MM for 2026 and just $100K for both 2027 and 2028.
MARCH 29: The Minnesota Twins are in agreement with right-hander Randy Dobnak on a five-year, $9.25MM extension, per Jeff Passan of ESPN (via Twitter). The deal includes three club option years with escalators that can bring the total amount up to $29.75MM. The first option year in 2026 will include a $1MM buyout, per MLB.com’s Do-Hyoung Park (via Twitter). That leaves $8.25MM to be spread out among the five seasons prior. For each of the three option years, escalators can add up to $1.8MM per season based on innings pitched thresholds. Dobnak is a client of Gaeta Sports Management.
This definitely rates as somewhat of a surprise, given that Dobnak, 26, will begin the year in the bullpen after spending all of last season in the rotation. While starting the year in a piggyback role might seem like a demotion, the Twins clearly feel compelled enough by Dobnak’s performance to guarantee his role in the organization for years to come. Further, with just 1.047 days of service time, he wasn’t likely to become arbitration-eligible until 2023.
The Twins, meanwhile, get three additional seasons of optional team control at what are likely to be reasonable rates. Both sides benefit from the financial certainty, though the escalators still provide Dobnak with a path to increasing his future earnings. Importantly, this is likely to be Dobnak’s primary source of career earnings: If the Twins choose to buy out the option years, it’s not likely to lead to a higher salary elsewhere, and if the Twins don’t buyout any of the option years, Dobnak will reach free agency for the first time prior to his age-34 season. Still, given his non-traditional path to professional baseball, it’s certainly understandable why a deal like this would appeal to Dobnak.
His rise, after all, certainly qualifies as one of the less likely origin stories in recent season. The Twins signed Dobnak with a mere $500 signing bonus in July 2017 after scouting him exclusively over YouTube, writes the Athletic’s Dan Hayes. He supplemented his income by driving for Uber and excelled through the Twins’ system despite overwhelming velocity or a knock-out put-away pitch. For a 26-year-old who signed out of independent ball, this deal represents life-changing money.
On the hill, suffice it so say that Dobnak has repeatedly overcome his underdog status to provide valuable innings for Minnesota. He was a genuine revelation in making his debut during the 2019 season, posting a 1.59 ERA/3.92 SIERA in five starts and four relief appearances covering 28 1/3 innings. Dobnak’s sophomore season had more ups-and-downs, but he still managed a 4.05 ERA/4.56 SIERA in 10 starts covering 46 2/3 innings. In 75 total career innings, Dobnak has achieved an excellent 58.8 percent groundball rate with a similarly-encouraging 5.7 percent walk rate and less-than-thrilling 15.7 percent strikeout rate.
He certainly doesn’t fit the mold of today’s hurler. His fastball lands in the 31st percentile for velocity and 5th percentile for spin rate. He is in the 13th percentile for whiff rate and fourth percentile by strikeout rate. Nevertheless, he has been better than average at avoiding barrels and coaxing below-average exit velocity while burning worms and avoiding free passes.
The recipe has worked for Dobnak thus far and earned him a long-term home in Minnesota. His four-seam fastball/sinker averaged just 91.4 mph, but strong arm-side run has proved it particularly effective against righties. He re-worked his slider and increased its usage in 2020 to promising results. While he will begin the season in the bullpen, the Twins rotation features a number of veterans with a history of injuries. It’s highly unlikely that the Twins won’t need to access their depth behind Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios, Michael Pineda, J.A. Happ, and the oft-injured Matt Shoemaker. Chances are the Twins’ mustachioed, bespectacled, newly-wealthy right-hander will be called on for bulk innings in 2021 and beyond.
In shocking and sad news, the Twins announced that bench coach Mike Bell has passed away at the age of 46. He had been suffering from kidney cancer.
Bell was one of many members in his family who enjoyed a long career in baseball. The grandson of former major league outfielder Gus Bell, the son of ex-third baseman and manager Buddy Bell, and the brother of former infielder and current Reds skipper David Bell, Mike Bell was the 30th overall pick of the Rangers in 1993. The ex-third baseman appeared in the majors in one season – 2000 – as a member of the Reds, his hometown team and one near and dear to his family’s heart.
After wrapping up his run as a professional player in 2005, Bell moved on to the minor and major league coaching ranks in 2007. He was also the director of player development with the Diamondbacks before becoming a prominent part of Twins manager Rocco Baldelli’s staff prior to last season. He garnered interest as a managerial candidate from the likes of the Mets, Orioles, Red Sox and Pirates over the past couple offseasons.
MLBTR sends our condolences to Bell’s family, the Twins organization and everyone affected by this tragic and sudden loss.
Utility player Andrew Romine has exercised the opt-out clause in his minor league contract with the Twins, per an announcement from team director of communications Dustin Morse. He is now a free agent.
Romine began with the Angels in 2010 and has also played with the Tigers, Mariners and Rangers in parts of 10 seasons since then. The 35-year-old has slashed .235/.291/.301 – good for an uninspiring wRC+ of 63 – with 10 home runs in 1,327 plate appearances. But Romine has shown off impressive defensive versatility, having appeared at every infield and outfield position during his career.
Romine’s ability to play all over the diamond could attract other teams now that he is back on the open market. However, the Twins haven’t ruled out bringing him back on a different contract, according to manager Rocco Baldelli (via Do-Hyoung Park of MLB.com).