Notes: Bringing the rain; bringing the heat

March 7th, 2021

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Mother Nature brought the rain on Saturday, and brought some more on Sunday.

The Twins third baseman didn't look the part of someone playing his first Spring Training game in Minnesota's 8-4 victory over the Rays at Hammond Stadium. Just ask Rays right-hander Collin McHugh, who watched Donaldson pummel a three-run blast an estimated 417 feet into the left-center-field stands in the third inning.

"I feel good," Donaldson said in an interview with the Twins' radio booth. "Last year, coming into camp, I felt really good. We had the break, obviously, with everything that happened, and trying to just play catch-up from there. Right now, I feel really good. Moving around well. I've been doing a lot of running, so hopefully, that bodes well for us going into the season."

He won't need to do too much running if he can just keep jogging around the bases like that.

Donaldson's legs are a big reason why it took so long for him to work into spring action for the first time. The Twins were taking it easy on his ramp-up into games following an offseason of increased training work and a change in running mechanics to keep his problematic calves healthy.Thanks to the continued work that Donaldson did in batting practice on the back fields before his Sunday debut, that layoff doesn't look to have had any impact on his bat. Donaldson's only other batted ball of the day was a first-inning groundout that left his bat at 106.9 mph. He exited after playing four innings.

Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said that Donaldson will likely be back in the lineup on Tuesday against the Orioles and could settle into a schedule of playing every other day this spring, in limited usage that mirrors that of Nelson Cruz.

"I think they're getting everything they need and more to prepare for the season, and then we're going to ramp them up," Baldelli said. "As Spring Training carries on and the season approaches, they'll ramp up like everyone else. But their schedules will look a little bit different than the rest of the group."

Canterino, Winder flash big stuff
It's no wonder the Twins were excited to get right-hander to their alternate training site at the end of last season.

In his spring debut on Sunday, the 23-year-old flashed the standout stuff that earned him a second-round pick in the 2019 Draft and the No. 11 prospect ranking in the Twins' organization, topping out at 98.7 mph with two strikeouts and a groundout in a perfect seventh inning against Tampa Bay. He fanned Mike Brosseau with a fastball and Willy Adames with a curveball as he flashed all four pitches out of his unorthodox windup.

Right-hander wasn't in St. Paul with Canterino, but he turned heads during instructional league games this offseason with his improved velocity, and that was on display for the club's No. 28 prospect when he topped out at 96.8 mph in a scoreless eighth.

"Knowing that we have guys like this teed up, ready to go physically, have good heads on their shoulders and are prepared to come here and help at the Major League level, it’s a great feeling," Baldelli said. "Those are power arms. Those are guys that can come in, fill different roles and really just miss bats. You have a chance to have a dominant staff when you can roll guys out there that look like that."

The outfield's a crowd
The Twins were already looking at a tough decision in their outfield before Spring Training began -- and now, and are making that even more difficult with their standout performances this spring.

Minnesota's outfield logjam was on full display in the sixth inning, when No. 14 prospect Gilberto Celestino doubled, Garlick doubled him home and Broxton crushed a three-run homer out of the stadium altogether.

Garlick is already on the 40-man roster and is making a push for a share of the open left-field job, as he's 4-for-10 with a team-leading 11 total bases. Broxton is in camp as a non-roster player, but his 5-for-8 spring could open the door for more opportunities in a competition that already involved Jake Cave, Alex Kirilloff and Brent Rooker.

"I wouldn’t be surprised if someone in that [non-roster] group really helped us at the Major League level at some point this year," Baldelli said. "I think it’s more likely than not."

Thorpe's confidence with fastball builds
Before all that offensive firepower took hold, left-hander continued his bid for a roster spot by striking out the side in the first inning. He generated five swinging strikes on only 13 pitches while topping out at 93.7 mph with his fastball, another indication that his relentless offseason work has him in a much more effective -- and confident -- place than he was a year ago, when he posted a 6.06 ERA.

"So much [confidence in the fastball] just to be able to see those swings and misses and then just trust it and be able to throw it where I want to," Thorpe said. "Just to read the hitters' swings, too, to see that they’re behind and they’re fouling it off or something like that and they go straight back through it -- it's just a real big confidence booster, so I’m loving it."