MINNEAPOLIS — Target Field remains open for individual workouts if necessary for the handful of Twins players choosing to ride out the coronavirus pandemic in Minneapolis. Those remaining in Fort Myers, Fla., can use parts of the CenturyLink Sports Complex in a similarly limited setting.
On the other hand, the Twins are still trying to get a feel for the individual workout situations faced by the majority of their players who elected to return home to be with their families during the delayed start of the baseball season.
When camp broke last week, the Twins' priority was to ensure the health and safety of their players, with baseball considerations placing a distant second in importance. Now that the roster has safely scattered around the country, president of baseball operations Derek Falvey and his players are finding, as expected, that facilities appropriate for workouts are largely closed or limited due to the ongoing situation.
Every Major League pitcher met with pitching coach Wes Johnson prior to his departure from Fort Myers for some idea of a throwing program, and those on the pitching side can continue with some home work and resistance band work. But with no sense that this hiatus will end soon, Falvey acknowledged on a conference call with the media on Thursday that his club's roster — position players in particular — almost certainly won't be able to maintain close to a full workload.
"The further and further we get into this, there's no sugar-coating it: We can't keep up the level of activity we had when we left Fort Myers," Falvey said.
In Minneapolis and Fort Myers, Falvey said the Twins are adhering to guidelines from Major League Baseball by limiting workout interactions to one-on-one contact between coaches and players, and regularly cleaning equipment at the facilities.
A good sign for the Twins' longer-term future this season is that the club's rehabbing players — Rich Hill and Byron Buxton — have largely remained on track with their recovery. Hill has returned to his offseason home in the Boston area, where he is continuing to work with the physical therapist that had been managing his rehab work in the offseason as he recovered from a "primary repair" surgery on his left elbow.
Buxton is continuing his rehab work in a one-on-one setting at the Twins' facilities in Fort Myers, Falvey said. The center fielder had taken his first batting practice of the spring only days before camp was brought to a halt, and his readiness for Opening Day had remained an open question throughout his recovery from labrum repair surgery in his left shoulder last September.
In the meantime, Falvey and team president Dave St. Peter said the Twins are trying to remotely maintain their baseball operation department to the greatest extent possible, including possible preparations for MLB Draft related meetings and conversations to begin in the near future despite the lack of ongoing in-person scouting.
"During the course of a baseball season, our group, our baseball operations’ challenge and our team’s challenge is to deal with things that are out of your control and to make the best of that situation," Falvey said. "So I would say that, from our standpoint, what we’re telling our staff and our players and our remote staff, and scouts and player development folks, is we now have a different challenge in front of us.
"How can we use the time to maybe focus on development in ways that we weren’t capable of when we’re just trying to get our jobs done on a daily basis? How can we continue to advance what we’re doing in terms of process, of scouting, of systems, of player development? There’s a lot of folks that are used to working remotely from our organization that now are doing it in a different way."
The Twins have no choice but to quickly come to terms with their new, changing reality.
"I think we're hopeful that at the right time, sports will return," St. Peter said. "Baseball will return. Our job is to be ready for that, assuming that happens. But do we know that's going to happen? No, we don't. Therefore, we're planning for all kinds of contingencies that would contemplate it maybe not happening anytime soon."
Falvey and St. Peter confirmed again on Thursday that no Twins players — or any other full-time members of the organization — have required testing for COVID-19. Falvey said members of the training staff have divided up the roster among themselves and conduct daily health-related check-ins with every player.
"Just the realities of the numbers and the math around this would indicate that we'll likely deal with something along the way, whether it's a potential need for a test or one that actually transpires and we find out something specific," Falvey said. "But as of today, we don't have anything on that."
No news on regular-season tickets
With the details of the 2020 regular-season schedule still in flux, the Twins do not yet have a plan in place for how to manage tickets to games that will be impacted by the delay to the regular season. St. Peter said the Twins have been working with other clubs on the sharing of ideas and best practices, and the organization hopes to announce some plans in the next two weeks.
"I think we're asking fans to be patient with us for now, but we have every intention of being very transparent with our policy and ultimately will try to provide fans with options that will range from credit to moving into new games to refunds," St. Peter said.
Twins maintain playing field
Whenever the home opener may come this season, the Twins are determined to have Target Field ready. St. Peter said that small crews working on spread-out schedules continue to maintain the playing surface at the ballpark, and the club has several other projects it hopes to implement at some point in 2020, including an improved stadium Wi-Fi system and modifications to the clubhouse, bullpen and suites.
"The playing field is in spectacular shape," St. Peter said. "It might be as good as it has been in five or six years. We're thrilled with the way it came through the winter."