Marwin FaceTimes injured pals into revelry

September 26th, 2019

DETROIT -- Much of Wednesday night is still a blur for Twins manager Rocco Baldelli, but amid the screams, chaos and sprays in the visitors' clubhouse at Comerica Park, Baldelli remembers a phone suddenly appearing in front of his face as the team celebrated its first American League Central title in nine years.

It was , from bed, in Minneapolis.

As the celebration got underway and the team celebrated its accomplishments, veteran Marwin Gonzalez immediately knew that the festivities were incomplete without the presence of two teammates who had played key roles in getting the Twins to this point.

That's why Gonzalez summoned pitcher on FaceTime on his phone for three minutes as Pineda celebrated on his own at home. Immediately afterwards, Gonzalez pinged Buxton in time for the team photo with the "AL Central Division Champions" banner.

"I called Pineda when we started celebrating because he's a big part of what we accomplished right here," Gonzalez said. "I think he deserved that. I called and let the guys talk to him, and then I called Buxton when we took the picture so he could be there. He's a big part of this, too. We miss him a lot."

In that photo, Gonzalez, crouching next to the banner, is holding up his phone in his left hand, with a smiling Buxton giving a thumbs-up on the screen. Buxton, who underwent season-ending surgery on his left shoulder on Sept. 10, was certainly a significant part of this team's success, posting 3.1 WAR in 81 games, per Baseball Reference, the sixth-highest mark on the team.

Buxton still has his left arm immobilized following the procedure, but he was around the team at Target Field during the past homestand and should be with the team during the postseason.

"Marwin doesn't forget," Baldelli said. "Marwin's been a part of good teams and situations like this before, and in those moments, he's thinking of other people. He has that perspective, and I think that's great. Because it's taken a lot of people to get us to this point."

The making of a day-after-clinch lineup
Now that the Twins' spot in the postseason is officially secure, Baldelli and his staff can finally look ahead to what their roster and lineups might look like in the AL Division Series.

The skipper said that there are still several decisions that remain with regards to the postseason roster, but resting his regular starters will be a priority during Minnesota's final series of the regular season in Kansas City starting Friday.

With that said, Baldelli still plans to get some of his core relievers into the action and hopes to find some limited spots for his regulars in the field to make sure that they're not out of action for too long before the start of postseason play, with four days off between the end of the regular season and the first game of the ALDS.

But a more immediate concern was figuring out what Thursday afternoon's lineup against the Tigers would look like in the aftermath of all the chaos.

"I don't even know what the lineup looks like," Baldelli mumbled on Thursday morning as he flipped over the lineup card on his desk.

"Yeah, it looks different," he said with a nod.

It certainly did. Ian Miller was hitting leadoff. Willians Astudillo -- who hoped not to be needed for catching duty -- was batting third and slotted in at third base. The only projected postseason starter in the lineup for the Twins was 22-year-old Luis Arráez, who manned his normal second-base position. Baldelli was counting on youth to be on Arráez's side.

"We had to come up with a few guys to play, and Luis is basically the youngest and hopefully can recover the quickest," Baldelli said. "Luis is more mature than most of our players. Let's just call it what it is."

Most notably, rookie LaMonte Wade Jr., who had only played in the outfield through the five years of his Minor League career, was thrilled to hear on the bus back to the hotel on Wednesday night that he would make Thursday's start at first base out of necessity. Wade was a first baseman for two years at the University of Maryland but had to borrow Max Kepler's first-base mitt for Thursday's game.

"Is this his professional debut [at first]?" Baldelli asked. "I don't even know if he owns a first baseman's glove."

Baldelli was informed that there was, in fact, a glove sitting on Wade's chair.

"There was? That's great," Baldelli said. "He played it in college. So we did get ahead of this. We were thinking about this. Believe it or not, we couldn't just slap this together."