When Randy Dobnak walked to the mound Friday to face live hitters, something was different about him.
His belly, to be exact.
Dobnak wasn’t out of shape when he made his major league debut during the second half of last season, then pitched his way into a Game 2 start of the AL Division Series against the Yankees. But there was room for him to taper, and he did so while waiting for baseball’s restart.
When asked if he lost weight, he initially joked, “I forgot to eat the last three months,” before acknowledging he took advantage of the shutdown to make some changes.
“I dropped about 15-20 pounds just from eating a little better during the quarantine,” he wrote in response to a question. “Nothing crazy!”
But it was noticeable Friday as he fired away at Nelson Cruz and a few other Twins hitters. Dobnak is not guaranteed a spot in the 2020 rotation, but his success last season — he went 2-1 with a 1.59 ERA in nine games, five starts, after being promoted from Class AAA Rochester — gives him a strong foundation to build off. And getting in better shape can’t hurt either.
“I kept to a workout routine with some sprints as well,” he said. “Haven’t really felt like I’ve lost 15-20, but some people have mentioned it. Still feeling strong and motivated!”
With lefthander Rich Hill, who has recovered from elbow surgery, now expected to be available at the start of the season, the battle for a rotation spot is real. After righthanders Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi and Kenta Maeda, the Twins have Dobnak, Hill, lefthander Devin Smeltzer and righthander Jhoulys Chacin as candidates.
Luis Arraez once hit .400 over a 37-game stretch while at Class A Fort Myers in 2018. He hit .405 during his first 25 games as a Twin. And he’s thought about his chances of hitting .400 over a 60-game season.
“That’s one of my goals,” he said on Sunday. “But first of all I think is just staying healthy, do our best to stay healthy and win the division, and then win the World Series.”
Batting .400, last done by Ted Williams in 1941, seems like a long shot. Especially given the current state of the game, in which defensive shifts, power pitching and powerful bullpens are the rage. But Arraez apparently is confident. He was a .331 hitter in his minor league career and batted .334 during his rookie year.
“If hitting .400 happens, that’s a good thing for me,” he said. “But for me, too, and for my teammates, just win the World Series, that’s important.”
Message from Sano
Miguel Sano, who confirmed Saturday that he tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, posted a message on his Instagram account that he is coping as well as he can.
“I tested positive for COVID-19 but I’m feeling good,” he said. “I have no symptoms, and I’m feeling good. I hope to come back soon, I miss my teammates and I will be with them very soon.”
Sano tested positive during the team’s intake testing phase. Once he has two more tests come back negative, he will be allowed to join the team. Willians Astudillo is in the same situation as Sano.
The Twins began another round of testing Sunday.
Minor leaguers Edwar Colina and Nick Gordon also are recovering from the virus. Colina already has tested negative once since contracting the virus.
The 2020 schedule, after about a week delay, will be announced at 6 p.m. Monday on the MLB Network. The Twins are expected to release their television schedule around the same time.
USA Today reported that the Nationals will face the Yankees and the Dodgers will face the Giants on July 23 to kick off the delayed season, with the rest of the league starting July 24.
Win some, lose some
Maeda and Smeltzer faced hitters during the live batting practice portion of Sunday’s workout. Both elicited some swings and misses, but Eddie Rosario had something for both of them.
Rosario first clobbered a Maeda pitch into the seats above the scoreboard in right field. An inning later, he homered to nearly the exact same spot against Smeltzer.
Trevor May, Sean Poppen and Taylor Rogers also faced hitters.
Outfielder Byron Buxton arrived in the Twin Cities on Sunday and underwent testing. If all goes well, he should join workouts by midweek.