MINNEAPOLIS -- CHS Field in St. Paul, home to the American Association's St. Paul Saints, will be the Twins' alternate training site for the 2020 season, as announced by team leadership on a video call with media Monday afternoon.
The Twins plan to spread their summer camp workouts across both Target Field and CHS Field, with a specific subset of coaches dedicated to working with the smaller group in St. Paul, before the inactive members of the club's player pool begin to use the site for workouts and intrasquad games upon the start of the regular season.
President of baseball operations Derek Falvey said that the Twins have not yet finalized their split of players across the two camps, and those groupings could be subject to the results of the 131 COVID tests conducted by the team this week as part of Major League Baseball's return-to-play protocol.
The club has not yet announced which group of five to six coaches will be based in St. Paul.
"With the St. Paul group being slightly smaller staffing-wise, you want to make sure that it’s balanced," manager Rocco Baldelli said. "You want to make sure that we offer our pitching guys -- really, just keeping a balance is important. So we bring in our hitting coordinators, our pitching coordinators, and make sure that we have everything covered."
Those coordinators will have an important responsibility not only to keep the nearly 30 alternate players ready to step in for the Twins if necessary, but also to provide some approximation of development for a prized group of young players that is likely to include five of the top six prospects in the organization, per MLB Pipeline: Royce Lewis (No. 1), Alex Kirilloff (No. 2), Trevor Larnach (No. 3), Jhoan Duran (No. 5) and Ryan Jeffers (No. 6).
The Twins have been working with their Minor League players via distanced coaching, and they hope to potentially use the CenturyLink Sports Complex in Fort Myers, Fla., to do some development work with other prospects if the pandemic were to allow it. But considering proximity to the Majors and experience in Major League Spring Training, they deemed it better to have this group of top prospects in Minnesota for now.
"We felt that putting them in this environment and being around guys who are going to continue to develop for the Major Leagues, that was the best way to advance their development for this year given the circumstances," Falvey said. "In the absence of games, it was better for them to be playing and to be around our coaches and getting a little bit more hands-on instruction."
Meanwhile, the Saints actually opened training camp of their own at CHS Field last Thursday ahead of a July 3 season opener, but no home games are planned in St. Paul for the time being. Even if conditions in St. Paul were to progress to the point where the Saints could play at home, the Twins don't believe that the overlap will be an issue.
"We anticipate the ability to continue to utilize a facility even if there were games, say, in the evenings, if we needed to utilize it for workouts," Falvey said. "And we'll also consistently work backup plans in the event that we have some challenges, but we don’t anticipate that here in the short term. But we’ll have subsequent backup plans, as necessary even if we need to, for moving some of our workouts out of there."
Twins will continue to pay all full-time employees through end of season
The Twins have weathered the entire coronavirus pandemic thus far without any pay cuts or furloughs to their full-time employees -- including interns -- and that will remain the case through the end of the 2020 season, team president Dave St. Peter confirmed on Monday.
"The Pohlads have continued to be steadfast in their support of our people, and as a leader here, we’re very grateful for that level of support," St. Peter said. "You work really hard to build an organization, across both your business side and your baseball side, and that takes time. And unfortunately it doesn’t take as long to tear that organization down. For that, I’m grateful the Pohlads have allowed us to keep our people onboard, with full pay."
In addition to their commitment to providing full salary and benefits to all front-office employees, the Twins were also among the first teams to commit to paying all Minor Leaguers their weekly stipend through Aug. 31, which encompasses nearly the entirety of the planned Minor League season. They have not released any Minor League players from their organization due to the pandemic.
• According to St. Peter, the Twins expect all 60 regular-season games to be televised in the Minnesota market via FOX Sports North or national telecasts. The club has not yet determined a plan for possible broadcasts of games during summer camp, including the optional exhibition games in the days leading into Opening Day.
• The Twins do not anticipate the possibility of having fans Target Field at the start of the regular season. St. Peter said that the organization remains in contact with local authorities and the Office of the Commissioner to monitor the spread of the disease, and he wouldn't yet rule out the possibility of reopening the ballpark in some capacity later in the season if there proved a safe and responsible way to do so.
"There are certainly some states that we know have been more aggressive with their reopen plans than others," St. Peter said. "Some of those states, I think, are further down this road relative to planning for reintroducing fans into stadiums, arenas, concert halls, et cetera. Minnesota's not there yet."