With the 2021 season waning into a postseason-less oblivion, musings about the Twins' future provide some sunnier outlooks.
A peek at that came Saturday, with rookie Nick Gordon commandeering his preferred shortstop position for the first time in the majors. The Twins beat Kansas City 9-2 in that game, with Gordon homering in the second inning. Manager Rocco Baldelli was pleased with the 25-year-old's outing, especially his control.
But on whether Gordon could assume the No. 1 shortstop role anytime soon, Baldelli was more tepid.
"Finding ways to get him at-bats, moving him around the field, I think those are two general important things for Nick and things that we can control a little bit and make happen," Baldelli said Sunday. "I don't think the goal is to send him out at shortstop several times a week, every week from here on out. He may, there may be a weeks where he is, but I still want to see him move around the field. I think there's still a lot of benefit to that, and frankly, it's easier to do that when we can put him in different spots."
Gordon has played at center field, left field, third base and second base this year, the Twins clearly testing out his potential as a utility player. Baldelli said Gordon's athleticism at 6-0, 160 pounds and his "baseball sense" combined with his willingness to work at different positions to earn playing time make him an ideal candidate for multiple positions.
"He's got good instincts out on the field. He can run," Baldelli said. "… He's molded himself into a player that can do these different things. You have to have a skillset that says you can move around the field, you can play a major league infield and a major league outfield. Not that many players can do that."
But there is a not-so-distant future where the Twins might be replacing their current starting shortstop, Andrelton Simmons, who reassumed the mantle for Sunday's series finale against the Royals. Simmons signed a one-year, $10.5 million contract for the 2021 season but becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2022. The 32-year-old is a four-time Gold Glove winner with a .974 fielding percentage this season.
Baldelli seemed to toss his support behind retaining Simmons, highlighting one aspect the veteran has over the rookie: experience.
"With a young team and a young pitching staff especially, being able to put an elite shortstop out on the field helps the rest of the team," Baldelli said. "I know there have been some offensive struggles this year. But the defensive work that he puts in, it matters. It matters in a big way to a lot of our guys, and the ability for him to make plays and finish innings doesn't just help us win a particular game. It's helping a pitcher go from pitching 3⅓ [innings] because we couldn't get through an inning to getting through five. That's a big deal, and I think there's a lot of value in that."
Alex Kirilloff hasn't played since July 19, having undergone season-ending wrist surgery in hopes of having a fully healthy offseason. But Baldelli still hoped Kirilloff might return to Minneapolis after his eight-week rehab just to be around the team and see how he's recovering.
But that scenario might not actually come to fruition.
"He's been getting his work done in Fort Myers, [Fla.,] but it's something that I think over the last week and a half of the season, that is going to be discussed," Baldelli said. "… We'll probably just check in with the trainers, check in on his progress, get a little more detail on how he's doing, and then see where he's at at that point. … If we do think there is a good reason, medically and otherwise, to get him back up here, watch him, see how he's doing physically, let him interact with the guys, I think there's some benefit to it if it makes sense."
Rooker stays home
The Twins jet off to New York for a one-game makeup Monday at Yankee Stadium, but outfielder Brent Rooker won't make the trip. Baldelli announced after the game Sunday that Rooker was going on paternity leave.