"I consider [today] a holiday," Rocco Baldelli said Thursday, perhaps because he got a present from Major League Baseball: Permission to use 14 pitchers for an extra three weeks.
MLB's new rule limiting teams to 13 pitchers on their 26-man roster, set aside for two months out of injury concerns because of a shortened spring training, was supposed to go into effect on Monday. But MLB and the players union agreed Thursday to begin enforcing the rule on June 20 instead.
For a team that has placed 12 different pitchers on its injured list so far, that three-week extension is worth celebrating, Baldelli said. The manager had been lobbying the game's decisionmakers for more time, even though the Twins are currently carrying only 13 pitchers.
"The ability to carry 14 arms if you need it, it's something that everyone on the field is going to look favorably at," Baldelli said. "There are a lot of days where you are not sure where the innings are going to come from, so you have to get really creative. Having the 14 pitchers allows you to not have to really stress about that on a daily basis."
The Twins have used 25 different pitchers this season, counting position player Nick Gordon.
With a doubleheader looming next Tuesday in Detroit, Baldelli, pitching coach Wes Johnson and the team's front office have already begun planning for moves made necessary by an 18-inning day.
"It's not the doubleheader, it's what follows the doubleheader. It's almost impossible to actually do it these days — have 18 or more innings of baseball, and then get through the next couple of days without having to make moves. It's just very challenging," Baldelli said. "They're not conducive to keeping players healthy and on the field, but they're part of the game."
Limitations on starters
Another reality forced by roster restrictions: The Twins' six-man rotation is probably history.
Baldelli opened the season with plans in place to use six different starters, a strategy that lasted in its original form only about 10 days, until injuries hit. And now that the 28-man active roster has reverted back to its normal 26, the team's ability to carry six starters is compromised, particularly when the 13-pitcher limit is enforced.
"[It was] significantly easier to do with 28 people on a roster, and we were able to take advantage of that. Our guys did a good job, and it might have helped some of our guys get into the season, stay healthy and pitch well," he said. "So I'm glad we did it. Is it going to be more difficult to do going forward? Definitely."
Kenta Maeda made 25 throws from 105 feet earlier this week in Fort Myers, Fla., the team announced, as he continues to test his surgically-repaired pitching elbow. Maeda, who had elbow ligament surgery on Sept. 1, will throw from 120 feet soon, and a decision will be made about how soon he can begin throwing off a mound again.
In addition to the righthander, the Twins updated the status of several other injured players:
- Lefthander Danny Coulombe, out for two weeks because of a left hip impingement, is eligible to come off the injured list and "we could see him in the next day or two," Baldelli said.
- Jorge Polanco missed his third consecutive game because of soreness in his troublesome right ankle, but treatment is working, Baldelli said, hinting the second baseman could be in Friday's lineup.
- Jorge Alcala threw a bullpen session Wednesday in Fort Myers, and will do so again, this time with hitters standing in, on Saturday. Alcala is on the 60-day injured list after experiencing inflammation in his pitching elbow four days into the season. The Twins are optimistic he'll be able to return soon after he becomes eligible in mid-June.