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Twins Tidbits: Rocco Baldelli defends decision to test Yasiel Puig’s arm

MINNEAPOLIS — The Twins held a two-run lead on Cleveland in the fourth inning Saturday night with two outs and runners on first and second, when Ehire Adrianza hit a sharp single to right field off Indians starter Adam Plutko.

The Twins had Plutko on the ropes at that point and the assumption was Twins third base coach Tony Diaz would hold the not-so-speedy C.J. Cron at third base to load the bases and force a pitching change with leadoff hitter Max Kepler coming up.

Only Diaz surprised everyone by sending Cron home and thus challenging the arm of Cleveland right fielder Yasiel Puig, who has one of the best arms in baseball. It wasn’t close as Cron was thrown out at the plate to end the inning.

Kepler led of the fifth inning with a solo home run and the Twins went on to a 4-1 victory to end a four-game losing streak, but Diaz’s decision remained a head-scratcher.

“There’s probably multiple ways of looking at that play,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said afterward. “It’s also really wet out there, too, so in situations like that you’re going to tend to send the runner more times than not and maybe challenge the outfield. There’s no outfielder in baseball that enjoys throwing a soaking wet ball and it’s a challenge. He made a great throw and ended up ending the inning. Tony’s been great all year long so we certainly trust his instincts.”

The begining of the game was delayed for one-hour, 51 minutes because of rain and it continued to rain during the early part of the game. But if Diaz thought the wet baseball would bother Puig he was proven wrong.

CRUZ TO JOIN TWINS ON TRIP

Baldelli said Saturday the plan is for Nelson Cruz to join the team on its upcoming six-game trip to Milwaukee and Texas after the designated hitter sees a specialist on Monday in New York to get another opinion on the ruptured ECU tendon in his left wrist.

Cruz suffered the injury during an at-bat Thursday against Cleveland and was placed on the 10-day injured list on Friday. Cruz hurt the same wrist earlier this season and missed 15 games from May 14 to June 3.

“As of now, the plan is for Nelson to join us on the road,” said Baldelli, whose team is off Monday. “He’s going to see a specialist on Monday and then he’s going to come meet up with the team. … We’re going to wait and see what the other opinion is before we move on to any sort of treatment beyond normal treatment or any sort of protocol as far ramping back up into any potential baseball activity. We’re going to wait and see what we find out first and we’ll react once we get to Milwaukee and he’s there.”

The 39-year-old Cruz was in the midst of an outstanding season in which he was slashing .294/.384/.650 with 32 home runs and 76 RBIs in 87 games. Cruz had been red hot since the All-Star break, hitting 16 homers with 30 RBIs in 25 games.

The 15-year veteran also has been an important part of the Twins clubhouse. Baldelli said the Twins don’t have specific rules that apply to players on the injured list but acknowledged Cruz’s impact on his teammates.

“I think he’s an extremely important member of our group,” Baldelli said. “We don’t have rules as far as … if people are on the (injured list) and they potentially have something to do, or aren’t going to be there on a given day, or a few days or whatever. We don’t have any team rules as far as that. Our guys have handled it very professionally and have been there to support their teammates as far as that.

“The first time around, Nelson spent a lot of time around the group when he was on the IL earlier in the year and I would probably expect something similar. Our guys respond … the production that he brings on the field is very obvious, but the way the clubhouse responds to him is pretty special and unique. I think a lot of guys draw a lot of strength from him.”

PINEDA THROWS IN BULLPEN

Righthanded starter Michael Pineda, on the injured list since Aug. 3 because of a right triceps strain, threw in the bullpen on Saturday and will be on the upcoming road trip.

“We’re going to watch his bullpen,” Baldelli said. “We’re going to see how everything goes. If that went as planned, we’ll probably meet and talk about it and figure it out.”

Pineda is 7-5 with a 4.15 ERA in 21 starts this season and went 2-1 with a 2.37 ERA in five starts before going on the injured list.

Also making the trip will be righthanded reliever Sam Dyson, who was put on the IL after two appearances as a Twin because of right biceps tendinitis.”He’s doing pretty well,” Baldelli said. “I don’t have anything specific. We’re going to get him out there and continue throwing and probably ramp him up as time goes on. Nothing specific as far as dates. … He’s definitely feeling a lot better than he was when he went on the IL.”

LIMITED ROLE

Jonathan Schoop did not start on Saturday against Cleveland, giving the veteran only two starts and four appearances in 10 games this month.

Schoop mostly has been replaced at second base by standout rookie Luis Arraez, who started again Saturday and has been in the lineup for all but one game this month.

Schoop, playing on a one-year, $7.5 million contract, was slashing .253/.302/.452 with 16 home runs and 44 RBIs in 91 games entering Saturday. Arraez was at .345/.418/.433 with two homers and 12 RBIs in 50 games. Arraez went 1-for-3 with a walk and scored a run. His one hit was a fourth-inning triple — the first of his career — that scored Mitch Garver and gave the Twins a 1-0 lead.





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