MINNEAPOLIS -- The zip ties came off many seats around Target Field ahead of Friday's series opener against the A's, as the Twins expanded their fan attendance for the first time in line with updated guidelines from the Minnesota Department of Health and the office of Governor Tim Walz.
Capacity at Target Field expanded to 60 percent on Friday, where it will remain through the end of the month. In addition, the Twins announced that they will strongly encourage -- but not require -- fans to wear face coverings while in the outdoor areas around the ballpark after Walz ended the state's mask mandate.
"The more we can get back to returning to actual big league ballgames, where the crowd becomes a factor in those games ... that’s the goal, that’s what we’re excited about seeing," manager Rocco Baldelli said. "So I think everyone on the field will have a smile on their face going out there and seeing all the other faces in the crowd."
Friday's influx of fans marked only the first stage in the Twins' phased ramp-up to full capacity. They will expand to 80 percent capacity for their 12 home games in June and open the park to full capacity on July 5.
Tickets for the Twins' final remaining home games (June 8 and later) will go on sale May 20.
"It's definitely more fun having fans in the stands, and now, there's going to be more," Willians Astudillo said. "Hopefully, they rally behind us and we start winning games. But comparing it to last year is way different because last year, we didn't have that energy in the ballpark at the stadium. This year, we do."
Baldelli: Colomé has 'looked sharp'
The Twins' bullpen has struggled throughout the season. But in a promising sign, right-hander Alex Colomé has thrown four straight scoreless outings spanning five innings, allowing only two hits and two walks in that stretch while the Twins moved him to lower-leverage roles to sort out his early season issues.
"There are some kind of nuanced things that Wes [Johnson, pitching coach] has been noticing with his execution and the cutter in particular, the way he’s throwing the ball, that Wes really likes," Baldelli said. "Not just the results, but some of the things that come in behind it."
With the continued lack of production and depth in the Twins' bullpen, which entered Friday with the third-highest ERA and worst win probability added in the American League, they'll need Colomé to step back up into more prominent roles -- and that could be coming soon.
"Alex will continue to be asked to just be ready to pitch," Baldelli said. "He’s always ready to pitch. He could find himself in a game where we’re up two, tied, or down two, and he’ll be ready to go."
• The Twins have reached the 85 percent vaccination threshold of their Tier 1 personnel required for a relaxation of COVID-19 protocols, according to a club spokesman.
• Minnesota signed utility man Daniel Descalso to a Minor League contract on Thursday and assigned him to Triple-A St. Paul. Descalso is a veteran of 10 Major League seasons and most recently appeared in 82 games for the Cubs in 2019. He's a career .235/.320/.362 hitter and won the 2011 World Series with the Cardinals.
"I think a chance to add a guy like that who you know can help you and has had that experience and has that time in the big leagues is something you may always want to take advantage of, if you can," Baldelli said.
• Infielder Travis Blankenhorn was claimed off waivers by the Dodgers on Friday. The Twins designated him for assignment last Saturday to make room on the 40-man roster for reliever Derek Law. Blankenhorn went 1-for-3 with a double and a run scored in two career games for the Twins.