FORT MYERS, Fla. — When the the Boston Red Sox make the short drive across Daniels Parkway to face off against the Twins’ in the their spring training opener, the two teams will play just seven innings, a mutually agreed-upon decision.
Since teams only have 75 players in camp, spring training will feature shortened games at the beginning of the schedule — and some rule tweaks. Games through March 13 may be shortened to five innings or seven innings, should both managers agree, and from March 14 to the end of the spring, teams can modify their schedule to seven-inning games.
Manager Rocco Baldelli said this would be something they would have conversations about with Boston, Tampa Bay, Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Baltimore — the only teams they’re playing this spring — to see what they’re working with before checking back in the day before to finalize a decision.
“In some ways it may be helpful. We may not actually have on certain days even the position players to play full nine-inning games for the entire spring,” Baldelli said. “On the pitching side, we may end up in a few situations where we have guys getting work on the back field. Or throwing live BPs because we only have seven instead of nine. It takes constant willingness to adjust, but it’s part of the deal right now.”
During the first part of spring, managers will also be able to end an inning prior to three outs if a pitcher has thrown at least 20 pitches at the end of a plate appearance.
The three-batter minimum rule will come into play during the second half of spring training and throughout the spring, a pitcher who has been removed from a game may return.
“There will be a bunch of quirky things. There may not be as much attention paid to maybe the scorecard and the lineups and things like that,” Baldelli said. “I think all the teams in Major League Baseball I think are intent on us being able to prepare and the players being able to prepare and less so on sticking to all of the rules that we normally play by.”
The Twins are hoping starter J.A. Happ will be able to return soon after testing positive for COVID-19 upon intake testing. Baldelli said Happ is going to start the next step in the protocol early next week — expected to be on Monday.
“He’s going to come in and start his testing, the next hurdle we have to clear,” Baldelli said. “But he’s doing well. (Trainer) Michael Salazar has been in contact with him and has everything lined up.”
Baldelli said they are still hopeful that Happ will be able to come to camp and prepare to pitch during the first week of the season as he’s still been able to move his arm and stay in good throwing shape, though they will need to get him into camp and evaluate him in person before setting anything in stone.
“Whether or not J.A. is completely built up by the end of camp or it’s an extra week, I don’t think that’s a very big deal one way or the other,” Baldelli said. “These are the cards that were dealt and we’re going to make the best out of the situation and we’ll have him ready soon enough.”
Top prospect Royce Lewis had successful right ACL reconstruction surgery Friday afternoon at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. The surgery was performed by team physician Dr. Chris Camp. Lewis is supposed to stay in Minnesota for a short period of time before heading back to Fort Myers, where he will begin his rehab process.
“It went very well. Coming out of surgery and everything that goes on over the next few days, we just want to get him in a good place where he regains his strength and get him back down to Fort Myers and get back to work,” Baldelli said. “That’s the goal. But it was very good to hear that the surgery went just as planned.”