MINNEAPOLIS -- When Michael Pineda began his career in Seattle, in 2011, he was a rookie without much decision-making power. He then spent the next four seasons with the tradition-dictated Yankees.
When he signed with Minnesota before the 2018 season, he found himself in full control of his wardrobe for the first time in his career, since the Twins offered three home jerseys and two road uniform options from which he could choose at that point.
"It feels good when you can wear the jersey the color that you like," Pineda said. "When I came here, it was like, 'Wow! We have so many different jerseys! Unbelievable! OK!'"
The Twins have made a handful of tweaks to their lineup of threads since Pineda first arrived, expanding the selection to six primary uniforms. Four of them are worn at home: the traditional home whites, the solid red alternate, a navy blue alternate and the throwback baby blues introduced before the 2020 season. Their two road uniforms have stayed unchanged for a decade: the standard grays and a navy blue alternate.
With a few exceptions, the responsibility of choosing the team's look for any given game falls to that night's starting pitcher. For home games, equipment manager Rod McCormick or a clubhouse employee will usually approach that starter one day before the start so that they can have it ready to go. On the road, the starter will usually make a day-of determination, because they first need to see which uniform the home team is wearing so as to not pick something similar.
Considering there are six options to choose from, that's no small decision. How do Minnesota's starters make that call? Do they have preferences? We surveyed five of the Twins' starters earlier this month to find out.
Red is the clear winner among the current rotation, with four of the pitchers liking the solid red alternate at home with only the "TC" logo on the front -- and interestingly enough, all four had different reasons.
For Pineda and Bailey Ober, it's a matter of aesthetics.
Pineda: "Red is of one of my favorite colors. If you have the opportunity to wear red while doing something that I like -- pitching -- I love using my red jersey."
Ober: "I like the red one. It's different. It's a little more bright."
John Gant doesn't care at all about the color -- for him, it's a matter of feel. He prefers the red one because he feels the fabric to be a little thinner than for the other ones, which feels the best while throwing.
Gant: "As soon as the first day we wore it, I was in the bullpen for it. I didn't pitch that day, but just having it on and feeling it, I knew that was the one that felt the best for me. I like it. Also, the button -- there's not the two buttons on top. There's one button so it flaps open a little bit more, so there's a little more breathing room for everything, you know what I'm saying?"
Randy Dobnak also likes the fact that the red jerseys alone have only one button up top instead of two -- for a very Dobnak reason. (He also likes the baby blues.)
Dobnak: "I like the home reds because they show off my chest hair a little bit. I always just take one button off."
Griffin Jax: "Very Randy thing to say."
Gant: "Got that hamburger meat crawling up. That's what you want. That's what people want to see."
Among the five surveyed for this story, Jax alone showed a preference for the standard home whites, even though the results show a heavier usage of the navy blue home alternates.
Jax: "I've always just been a fan of just the clean home whites and the clean road grays. I just think there's something about the simplicity, and I guess the history of the home team wears white and the road team wears gray. I just like that the best."
As for the road, there's a huge split in the results. Ober and Pineda have almost always pitched in the standard gray road uniforms, while Gant and Dobnak have both chosen navy blue on the road every time -- though, as it turns out, that's not always intentional.
Pineda: "Wow. I didn't even know that. Oh, wow. This is a good one. Wow. ... Honestly, I didn't even remember that they had the blue jersey on the road. I normally go to my grays."
For some, there isn't even a methodology to it. They know what they want, unless there's some special occasion in which the team dictates they have to wear something else.
Gant: "I go red at home and blue on the road. Exclusively."
Pineda: "I remember that one day, it's something in that day and we had to use the baby blue. It's like, 'Yeah, no problem.' But every time they ask me what kind of jersey I want to use, I'm picking my red. If I have a choice, I'm picking my red."
Dobnak just punts on the decision altogether.
Dobnak: "If you want to know how I pick, I text my wife and say, 'Which jersey?' I guess she's not a fan of the gray on gray. Maybe that's it. I never thought about that. I guess she always likes to pick blue, so that's my reasoning."
And then, there are the two more superstitious guys. Every pitcher surveyed indicated that there aren't any unwritten rules among the pitchers on this team, but individual superstitions -- if you can even call them that -- certainly exist for the two rookie right-handers who have seen extended action this year.
Jax: "A lot of it now, I feel like, goes into what you win in. Sometimes, you'll see us wear a jersey two or three nights in a row because we've been playing well. I try to say I'm not very superstitious, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't go into it a little bit."
It doesn't help that one of the options is off the table for Jax, who also wasn't able to choose often early in his career due to the uncertainty of his timeline as a rookie going up and down.
Jax: "The baby blues at home do not fit me, so I will never choose that. The sleeves go down like halfway through my forearm."
But Ober actually thinks of it in a different way: He doesn't like using a jersey that somebody else has used recently -- regardless of the team's success in that game. Perhaps that's why he has the most even spread of home uniform usage among the rotation-goers.
Ober: "Going into this past home series, I was thinking, 'All right, I'm pitching on Sunday. I'm going to wear Sunday red. Tiger Woods, you know? We wore red on Friday, so I was like, 'All right, that's out.' Just because someone else wore it. Stealing my thunder. It's kind of a feel thing. I don't like doubling up. I just felt like I needed to do something else."
Instead, he chooses based on his own personal performance in each uniform. That's why he's chosen gray in each of his last eight road starts -- because he had a pair of solid starts in gray towards the beginning of his season and wanted to stick with it.
Ober: "For me, I feel like it's personal juju. If you're doing well yourself in a jersey, that's the one you pick, no matter if you won 10-0 last night in the same thing or a different one."
While Ober went so far as to ask for his stats in each of the different jerseys so that he could make more educated decisions in the future, Pineda feels no such connection between look and performance.
Pineda: "I'm not that kind of guy. I like wearing red because it's one of my favorite colors, but it doesn't matter what kind of jersey you use. I'm focused on pitching and doing my job."
A CALL FOR ACTION
Even considering all of those differences in their individual methodologies, three of them (plus former starter Tyler Duffey) issued a plea: Bring back the cream home pinstripe alternates that the Twins eliminated before the 2019 season in favor of the current navy blue home alternates.
Ober: "I'm hoping maybe down the road, we can bring those cream pinstripes back. Those are my favorites. I would love to wear those. One day."
Jax: "When they show the video replays and the guys are in that, that's mine. I would wear that every single time. They're such beautiful jerseys. I don't know why we don't wear that as our alternate."
Gant: "I was really hoping for the pinstripes. I've never played for a team that has pinstripes. I know that we used to wear pinstripes. I'm holding my breath, hoping that maybe they bring those back sometime soon. As soon as I got traded, that was one of my first thoughts: 'I think they wear pinstripes over there.' I was kind of bummed to hear that they didn't. Hopefully they bring them back, because I've never had the chance to wear pinstripes, and I think they look so good. ... If you need me to sign a piece of paper, I'll back you on that."