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Twins tailoring at-home pitching routines

Buxton's rehab complete; Wade, Poppen optioned
@dohyoungpark
March 26, 2020

MINNEAPOLIS -- If Thursday had been a normal Opening Day, José Berríos would have been set loose against the A's as the Twins opened the season behind ace for the second straight season. Instead, Berríos is throwing two side sessions a week and continuing his weighted ball routines between that

MINNEAPOLIS -- If Thursday had been a normal Opening Day, José Berríos would have been set loose against the A's as the Twins opened the season behind ace for the second straight season.

Instead, Berríos is throwing two side sessions a week and continuing his weighted ball routines between that bullpen work, as the 25-year-old maintains a six-day cycle in a holding pattern that the Twins hope will keep his arm in relative shape as they wait for whenever the regular season may actually come in 2020.

"People are going to find ways to really enjoy that next Opening Day, whenever it comes," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said on a conference call on Thursday. "That's going to be a unique experience in and of itself, and there’s a lot of anticipation for it. I know there is on my end, and everyone in our organization’s end, and that’s kind of what we’re waiting for. I don’t know what it’s going to feel like when we finally take the field again, but that’s the feeling we’re all in search of right now."

When will Berríos finally be allowed to break out of that cycle? Will the Twins have the right-hander maintain that routine until baseball resumes? Baldelli and pitching coach Wes Johnson don't have those answers as they adapt to the continually changing situation posed by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

When the Twins broke camp nearly two weeks ago, Johnson said he consolidated plans for two groups -- starters and relievers -- and has since adjusted those routines to fit each pitcher's needs. Johnson said that he's continuing to prepare his pitchers to have them ready to play a month from now, though he knows that it's impossible to place any timetable on these events and will need to adjust accordingly.

Johnson said that he spent more than 10 hours on the phone with doctors and physical therapists in the past several days to get health advice about how to deal with his pitchers in this unprecedented situation, and he and the Twins' staff have continued to communicate about various scenarios and alternative plans.

"Absolutely, it's going to change," Johnson said. "And you can continue to say that as the weeks continue to move further and further out. So, to answer your question, yes. Things will change. As to how much? I can't tell you. We can sit here and come up with 30 different scenarios of different things.

"So that's why we're just trying to keep our guys focused on today and their schedule they have for this week, and we'll reevaluate next week. If we still have no idea of anything, we'll devise another plan. And then we'll rinse and repeat that until we know something."

For now, Johnson said he feels confident that the club could have many of its players ready to play with three or four weeks' notice, whenever the time comes.

Buxton's rehab considered complete

One positive item amid all of the uncertainty is that Byron Buxton's rehabilitation from left shoulder surgery is essentially complete, and the center fielder continues to work out at home in Georgia. Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey and Baldelli said that Buxton had been "really close" to appearing in games when the team vacated spring camp with the intention that the center fielder's recovery was complete.

"Buck’s rehab could not have gone smoother, at least the way I was thinking about it," Baldelli said. "It went extremely well. Physically, mentally, he’s in a tremendous spot. He’s home."

Baldelli expects Buxton to have a normal buildup to game action alongside the other members of the Twins' roster when the time comes. The 26-year-old took live batting practice for the first time on March 10 and had been participating in fielding and baserunning drills throughout most of camp.

On Tuesday, teammate Lewis Thorpe shared a video on social media of Buxton taking swings against soft toss delivered by his wife, Lindsey, with his son, Brixton, watching nearby. Thorpe has also shared videos of Buxton catching the rookie left-hander's flat-ground throwing sessions.

Twins option Wade, Poppen to Triple-A Rochester

The Twins had been quiet on the transactional side since Spring Training came to a halt, but they made two moves on Thursday, optioning outfielder LaMonte Wade Jr. and right-handed starter Sean Poppen to Triple-A Rochester. The club is expected to announce several additional moves soon.

Falvey had previously said that the Twins, like other teams, were making housekeeping moves to trim their roster down to where it would normally be at this point in Spring Training. The Twins made their first round of cuts on March 9, when seven players were optioned to Triple-A, and more moves had likely been looming when Major League Baseball made the decision to shut down all camps on March 13.

"This was really with an idea toward getting to a place where we feel like we're still above our 26-man roster number, our 40-man," Falvey said. "We'll still have a number of [non-roster invitees] in camp, but we either have to do this sometime now or later around prepping again for whenever we come back together and think about what the group is that's still competing for the team."

Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.