Considering the trajectory of this season, here's a sentence you probably figured you wouldn't hear for some time: The Minnesota Twins are about to have too many starting pitchers.
Following the successful completion of a 50-pitch session of live batting practice on Wednesday, Michael Pineda is expected to come off the injured list early next week without needing a rehab assignment, with the expectation that he'll piggyback on Bailey Ober's next start in an extended relief outing to ease him back into Major League action.
Upon Pineda's return, the Twins will have seven healthy starters -- Pineda, Ober, Griffin Jax, Andrew Albers, John Gant, Randy Dobnak and Joe Ryan -- and while that might be a crowd in an ordinary year, the Twins won't immediately trim those numbers, according to manager Rocco Baldelli, considering the unique circumstances.
"I think there's benefit for everyone at this point in the season to see an extra day or two, if they can get it," Baldelli said. "And right now, we can make it work. We're not going to be able to function with seven starters for the rest of the month ... but we'll probably bring it back to six at some point and move some of our guys around a little bit."
Everybody will get some extra rest and recovery, with Ryan and Dobnak having been newly inserted into the rotation for consecutive games on Wednesday and Friday. The Twins could stagger everyone even more by giving Pineda a proper start on their next trip through the rotation.
That could prove significant because the club now begins a stretch of 14 games in 13 days due to their makeup game against the Yankees on Sept. 13 that wiped out an off-day ahead of their doubleheader against Cleveland on Sept. 14 -- and the last thing the Twins want to do is risk injury this late in a non-competitive season.
That's particularly important in the case of Ober and Jax, both rookies who didn't see competitive action due to the COVID-19 shutdown of the Minor League season last year. Ober figures to be an important anchor in the middle to back of the 2022 rotation. Considering the 26-year-old had arm issues in '19 and is already well over his previous career high of 78 2/3 innings, the Twins will take every opportunity to ease his workload in September.
Ober owns a 3.98 ERA in 16 big league starts this season since being pressed into action in June. He'll likely be in line for fewer than his standard 65- to 85-pitch workload in his next outing -- possibly Monday in Cleveland. Baldelli said that Ober and Pineda could combine for six or seven innings in that game, but it wouldn't necessarily become the new norm for Ober.
"It's not necessarily going to be something that we're definitely going to be doing indefinitely going forward," Baldelli said.
Twins recognize for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month
As part of the league-wide recognition of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month for a sixth consecutive season, the Twins and Cubs all took the field wearing gold ribbon decals and wristbands during Wednesday's game at Target Field in recognition of the approximately 15,000 children younger than 20 every year who are diagnosed with cancer in the United States.
The Twins will go a few steps further this month by highlighting four organizations during pregame and in-game activities and via their social media channels.
On Wednesday, the Twins drew attention to Masonic Children's Hospital, while Pinky Swear Foundation, an Edina, Minn.-based organization, will be the focus of their Sept. 10 game against Kansas City. A day for Children's Minnesota will follow on Sept. 14, followed by activities in support of Children's Cancer Research Fund on Sept. 28.
Each organization will receive tickets to bring a group of children and their families to that designated game. Twins players will have opportunities to participate in a virtual visit with children at one of the hospitals.