Odorizzi day to day with back stiffness

July 20th, 2020

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins scratched right-hander from his planned start in Sunday's intrasquad scrimmage due to mild upper back tightness. Though Odorizzi is considered day to day and the issue is not expected to persist, Minnesota will likely have to change the original plan for the ordering of its starting rotation in the opening week of the season to adjust.

Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said Odorizzi's final tuneup start of Summer Camp would likely be pushed back several days. According to Baldelli, Odorizzi has intermittently felt the tightness in his back for several days, but he was still able to play long toss without much issue. Minnesota doesn't believe the consequences will be any more significant than a slight delay in the veteran's pitching schedule.

"Pretty sure we’re going to be just fine going into the first full week of the season," Baldelli said. "I can’t tell you exactly as we sit here right now what day he’s going to end up out there pitching. ... We’re going to treat it as a day-to-day spot with him, and basically go from there."

Though neither Baldelli nor pitching coach Wes Johnson have made any public announcements regarding the order of the Twins' starting rotation beyond Opening Day starter , the pitching schedule in Summer Camp suggested that the Twins had Berríos, Odorizzi and lined up in that order to pitch in the opening series against the White Sox, with and in line for the fourth and fifth spots in some order.

Unless Odorizzi is ready to pitch in Monday's final intrasquad game, he will no longer be on schedule to start Saturday's game in Chicago, leaving the Twins one of two options: Have one of the younger pitchers make a spot start in Odorizzi's place, or rework the existing starting rotation to move some pitchers up and simply slide Odorizzi back a few days.

"I think it’s clear just the way we’ve stretched numerous guys out that we have plenty of options," Baldelli said. "We can leave some guys in the spots where they’ve been throwing and basically move one or two guys around to fill those spots in the rotation."

The first option would likely involve , or taking the mound, as the three rookies remain in consideration for the two or so swingman/long relief spots in the Opening Day bullpen. That would leave Maeda, Hill and Bailey to stay on a relatively normal schedule without much maneuvering.

The Twins appear to be ready for the latter scenario as well. They pushed Hill back by a day to throw Saturday's live batting practice, which could leave him in position to start the second game in Chicago on six days' rest. Maeda, who will start Monday's intrasquad scrimmage, could also pitch that day on a normal four days' rest.

"We’ve spoken with all of our starters," Baldelli said. "I think they’re all very much ready to go regardless of what spot they pitch in, and we’re going to fill in some of those innings with some guys that might have started the season in our bullpen -- but guys that we knew we were going to rely on throughout this season."

All of this, of course, depends on when Odorizzi's body allows him to return to the mound in the coming days. Following Monday's scrimmage, the Twins have a light workout on Tuesday morning before they travel to Chicago. They play the Cubs on Wednesday at Wrigley Field before an off-day on Thursday ahead of Opening Day.

Both the Twins and the 30-year-old Odorizzi hope he can continue to build on the mechanical and pitch-shaping improvements that he made in 2019, when he pitched to a 3.51 ERA -- his best since '15 -- and made the first All-Star team of his career. Odorizzi was an effective complement to Berríos atop the rotation, and he made the Twins' most effective start in the American League Division Series against the Yankees with five innings of two-run ball in Game 3 at Target Field.