Notes: Donaldson's spot; Buxton's progress

March 11th, 2020

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Rocco Baldelli doesn't love to go into details with the media about the ordering of his starting lineup. Apparently, the same goes with star free-agent acquisitions.

It certainly appears as though Max Kepler will again be Baldelli's leadoff hitter of choice after assuming the role for the first time last season. As for ? He said that he hasn't had any conversations about his role with his new skipper -- and he doesn't have a real preference, either, given the strength of his new teammates.

"In this lineup, if I hit seventh, I feel like I can still have a great season given the guys that would be in front of me," Donaldson said. "We have a lot of guys that can hit in this lineup."

With that said, Donaldson has been able to read between the lines, and he sees a pattern: second against lefties and fourth against righties. He has batted in the two-hole in five of his six starts this spring against southpaws, while he has hit cleanup in two of his three games against right-handers.

"That's just kind of the feel that I'm getting right now," Donaldson said. "I don't know. We haven't had that conversation."

Baldelli, of course, remains relatively noncommittal, and it simply took some waiting last season to see what patterns would emerge in the Twins' usage during the regular season. That eventually ended up being Kepler-Jorge Polanco-Nelson Cruz atop the lineup against righties and Mitch Garver-Polanco-Cruz against lefties.

With Garver, Kepler, Polanco and Cruz, it's clear that Baldelli already had a deep stable of experienced hitters in the top half of his lineup. Where does Baldelli now fit the 2015 American League Most Valuable Player Award winner into that? Whatever the answer, it's a good problem for the Bomba Squad to have.

"Our guys are going to move around in the order," Baldelli said. "I can't tell you exactly where guys are going to hit and how often they’re going to hit there. [Donaldson] could see some time hitting second. I think that's a definite possibility."

Buxton feeling good after live batting practice
Following his first live batting practice session of the spring on Tuesday, said that Wednesday would be an important day of evaluation. On that front, Baldelli said that Buxton continued to progress nicely and that Tuesday was "a really good day" for the Twins' center fielder.

Buxton is scheduled to work out on Thursday but will take a day off from hitting. Baldelli still couldn't commit to whether the 26-year-old would be ready for Opening Day, but he did not express any concern about the projected timeline.

"It's hard to say right now, but we couldn't be happier with his progress," Baldelli said. "Whether he's ready Opening Day or whether he’s ready a week into the season, I'm not really worried about that at all at this point. I think we're just really pleased with where he's at. He's been going in the right direction from Day 1, and I think he's going to be ready to go very soon."

Larnach plays field for first time
Trevor Larnach made his first defensive appearance of the spring when he started in left field and went 0-for-1 with a walk on Wednesday. Larnach, ranked the Twins' No. 3 prospect per MLB Pipeline, had served as a pinch-hitter or designated hitter in his first 12 games of the spring while he recovered from soreness in his right shoulder.

Larnach is hitting .333/.467/.708 in Grapefruit League play and leads all Twins with five extra-base hits. His three homers also have him tied with Cruz for the club lead.

Up next
With left-hander Lewis Thorpe no longer in Major League camp, the path to the starting rotation might be more open than ever for veteran Jhoulys Chacín, who will make his fourth start of Spring Training in a 5:05 p.m. CT contest against the Orioles on Thursday at Hammond Stadium. Chacín has allowed six runs in eight innings in Grapefruit League play as he competes with Randy Dobnak and Devin Smeltzer for the open roster spot. The game will be streamed live on MLB.TV.