In one week, the Twins likely will be finalizing their postseason roster and preparing for their first playoff game at Target Field in three years.
For a team that clinched a division title early and almost assuredly will remain the No. 3 seed in the American League, there is a lot to learn over the final six games of the season. The bullpen will feature converted starters. The left side of the Twins' infield is counting on two guys to return from the injured list.
Here is a look at the Twins' projected 26-man playoff roster for the probable wild-card series. It includes 14 position players and 12 pitchers. The final roster is due the morning of the first game.
Ryan Jeffers, Christian Vázquez
The easiest part of the roster to project. Jeffers and Vázquez have alternated starts for the past few months. Jeffers' offense probably outweighs Vázquez's defense for lead catcher in a postseason series.
Alex Kirilloff, Edouard Julien, Carlos Correa, Jorge Polanco, Royce Lewis, Donovan Solano, Kyle Farmer
The primary questions surrounding the infield are injury-related. Correa has shown progress after aggravating plantar fasciitis in his left foot and he's trending toward playing in Colorado for the last regular-season series. He did a little pregame fielding work, without running, with infield coach Tony Diaz on Sunday.
Correa "came up to me [Friday] and said he was feeling really good," said Derek Falvey, the Twins' president of baseball operations. "I said, 'That's good, but you can't play.' He admits that it is probably a benefit that we put him on the IL, so he wouldn't be talking himself back into the lineup on a daily basis."
Lewis' status for the postseason remains uncertain because of his grade 1+ hamstring strain. He's out for the rest of the regular season, so the Twins' Oct. 2 workout at Target Field will be a big test for him. One scenario might be returning strictly as a designated hitter, though that would likely affect Byron Buxton's status, too. It would be difficult to carry two DH-only players.
"I would do anything for this team," Lewis said. "They know that. I'm going to work hard."
If Lewis is unable to play third base, Polanco will likely start there against righthanded starting pitching. Farmer and Solano give the infield depth against lefties.
Max Kepler, Michael A. Taylor, Matt Wallner, Willi Castro, Andrew Stevenson
Buxton hasn't played in an MLB game since Aug. 1. He went 1-for-8 with three strikeouts in two rehab games at Class AAA St. Paul last week. He played a game in center field at the end of August, but Falvey said the current focus is making him ready to DH.
If Buxton makes the playoff roster, what is his role? Lewis will be in the lineup if he's deemed healthy, even if that's at DH. The Twins could use another righthanded batter against a potential lefty starter, but Buxton hit .180 vs. lefthanders in 90 plate appearances.
"He's been through a lot of ups and downs," Falvey said of Buxton. "Best thing he can do is just focus on each thing ahead of him. We'll make the call when that time comes."
The main alternative to Buxton is Stevenson, a lefty batter who swiped 48 bases in 54 attempts this year. How well Buxton is running might determine his spot and whether he's available to play defense.
Starting pitchers (3)
Pablo López, Sonny Gray, Joe Ryan
Manager Rocco Baldelli confirmed López and Gray will start the first two playoff games. Ryan seemingly has the inside track for the third starter with Kenta Maeda moving to the bullpen this week. Ryan has a 3.82 ERA in six starts since returning from the IL with 39 strikeouts in 30⅔ innings.
If Maeda remains in the bullpen for the postseason — he was dominant in that role with the Dodgers — Bailey Ober will likely be the No. 4 starter if the Twins advance.
Jhoan Duran, Griffin Jax, Caleb Thielbar, Emilio Pagán, Louie Varland, Brock Stewart, Kenta Maeda, Chris Paddack, Dylan Floro
Duran, Jax, Thielbar and Pagán are locked into the back of the Twins' bullpen. Varland has given up three hits, no runs and no walks in his past four relief appearances with 10 strikeouts in 6⅓ innings.
Stewart, rehabbing from a forearm strain, expects to be activated from the injured list on Tuesday. He's working on improving the command of his sinker and cutter, but says his arm feels great. He topped out at 97.6 mph in his final rehab outing, and he told pitching coaches Pete Maki and Colby Suggs he could be available to pitch on back-to-back days.
"I think I contributed in a big way when I was active in the first half," Stewart said. "I just want to get back and do that again."
The last couple of bullpen spots remain in the air. Paddack is a big wild card because he hasn't faced an MLB hitter since May 2022, but it's hard to ignore his stuff in a potential multi-inning role. He was throwing 98 mph at St. Paul with great results on his changeup.
Floro hasn't pitched in many high-leverage situations with the Twins, but there are situations where his high ground ball rate could be a factor. Dallas Keuchel or Kody Funderburk could give the Twins another lefty, but they have righty relievers they trust against lefthanded batters.