FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Monday marked the first day of live batting practice in Twins camp, but one of the newest members of the team is already standing out to his new skipper.
Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli raved about his first glimpse of veteran reliever Hansel Robles, whose fastball, changeup and slider made for a "lot of fun" for the Twins' coaching staff as the right-hander faced a live batting practice group that included Luis Arraez, Jorge Polanco and Kyle Garlick.
"It’s impressive to watch," Baldelli said. "[Robles has] got a really unique mix of delivery, arm action, stuff. He threw some pitches -- and some guys have this thing -- he threw some pitches. I wasn’t sure what they were exactly, and that is a real thing I think at times. The ball looks like it’s spinning one way, coming out of his hand a different way."
Robles is among several candidates to pitch late in games -- and potentially even ninth innings -- in Baldelli's flexible bullpen. The Twins brought him in on a one-year, $2 million deal following a difficult 2020 season during which he lost the Angels' closer job and was later non-tendered. The Twins clearly feel that Robles is closer to the pitcher with a 2.48 ERA and 23 saves in '19 than to the version with the diminished fastball velocity and ballooned walk rate from '20.
The Twins are putting faith in Robles and Alex Colomé to help make up for the wealth of production that was lost when Tyler Clippard, Trevor May, Sergio Romo and Matt Wisler all departed in free agency -- and while first impressions aren't all too significant in the big picture, a strong introduction to a new organization certainly can't hurt.
"He’s a guy that certainly has good stuff, and I look forward to watching him go and seeing what kind of year Hansel has," Baldelli said.
Twins announce partnerships with 3M, Venuetize
There's still no clarity about if and when fans will be allowed into Target Field this season, but the Twins are certainly preparing for that possibility.
Over the last week, the Twins announced a pair of partnerships with 3M and Venuetize aimed at facilitating the return of fans to Twins games once it becomes safe to do so. Twin Cities-based 3M will become the official science partner of the Twins organization.
Twins officials have begun collaborating with 3M regarding items like ballpark ingress and egress and sanitization protocols around Target Field, while the partnership with Venuetize will allow for fans to use contactless ordering and payments for concessions and merchandise around the ballpark combined with the MLB Ballpark app's digital ticket delivery service.
Fans will now be able to use the mobile ordering function on the MLB Ballpark app to order and pre-pay for food and drink to be delivered to their seats from their mobile devices, with pre-packaged order pickups also available from "grab-and-go" stations.
Duffey feels 'fortunate' after crisis in Texas
Tyler Duffey's home in Houston never lost power during the recent winter storm and associated blackouts around Texas, but he did lose running water and experience a three-day delay in his arrival for Spring Training in Fort Myers as a result. Considering the extent of the devastation around his home state, he knows that he's lucky.
"It's a pretty awful scene in some of those places," Duffey said. "We were fortunate enough to get out of there, and now I think the weather's actually cleared up pretty nice there. It'll be a busy month for plumbers fixing all the broken pipes, but I think otherwise, hopefully some good comes from it and makes some changes to stuff around Houston and Texas as a whole."
Duffey was originally supposed to fly to Florida with his family last Monday but had his departure delayed until Thursday. He did need to stay on his throwing schedule in the meantime, and in order to get his work in, Duffey located a gym -- cold and dark due to the blackouts -- and threw against a wall with the door propped open to let in some residual light.
Luckily for Duffey and the Twins, his family made it to Florida safely and he was able to feel good while throwing a bullpen session on Sunday -- no more resourcefulness needed.
"It's commonplace now, especially after COVID last year," Duffey said. "You just find a way sometimes."