Twins looking to keep pitchers fresh in rematch vs. Rockies

Field Level Media

September 30, 2023 at 11:59 am.

With the playoff picture settled for the Minnesota Twins, manager Rocco Baldelli is using the final weekend of the regular season to prepare for Game 1 of the American League wild-card round on Tuesday.

The guinea pigs for the Twins are the Colorado Rockies, who are heading for another long winter after the regular season wraps up Sunday afternoon. Minnesota (86-74) and Colorado (58-102) will play the teams’ penultimate game of the season on Saturday night in Denver, with both clubs opting to proceed with a bullpen day instead of traditional starting pitchers.

Right-hander Emilio Pagan (5-2, 3.03 ERA), who recorded the last out in the Twins’ 7-6 win on Friday night, will serve as the opener on Saturday. Pagan is 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA in 12 career relief appearances vs. the Rockies.

He has not started a game against Colorado.

The Rockies have yet to announce their opener for Saturday’s game.

Minnesota will have several pitchers throw Saturday night to stay sharp for its upcoming series against the AL’s third wild-card representative. Baldelli said Jhoan Duran, Griffin Jax, Caleb Thielbar and Louie Varland likely will get work in at some point on Saturday night.

“We want a lot of our guys to throw on Saturday,” Baldelli said Friday. “I think it’s a good day to throw, our pitching guys think it’s a good day to throw leading into a Tuesday playoff game. So we’re going to see the Durans and the Thielbars, Jax and a lot of these guys. I think Varland is also throwing (Saturday) — amongst others. It’s going to be really a triple-pen game.”

The Twins have several players on the injured list, but Baldelli said he will address their status for the playoffs after the weekend. It could mean shortstop Carlos Correa is close to returning from plantar fasciitis in his left foot.

Infielder Jorge Polanco left Friday’s game with right ankle soreness and won’t play Saturday, Baldelli said, but he’s not concerned it will sideline Polanco for the postseason.

Although Colorado has gone with a youth movement over the last two months of the season, it still needs a veteran presence for next year. The Rockies signed outfielder Charlie Blackmon to a one-year, $13 million contract for 2024, two days before the six-year, $108 million deal he signed in 2018 was completed.

Blackmon, 37, is guaranteed to be in a Colorado uniform for his 14th straight season, which is second to Todd Helton’s 17-year run.

The new deal was announced during Friday night’s game, news that drew cheers from the sold-out crowd at Coors Field. Blackmon celebrated with two hits.

“That was cool, really out of the ordinary, which doesn’t happen a lot,” Blackmon said of the fans cheering the announcement. “You play a lot of baseball, you get really wrapped up in your routines and doing the same thing, trying to be really, really consistent. So it was fun to have something like that. It feels so different on a baseball field.”