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Twins playoff roster: Byron Buxton back in center field, Josh Donaldson to sit out series

Rocco Baldelli
Minnesota Twins manager Rocco Baldelli watches from the dugout during the eighth inning in Game 3 of a baseball American League Division Series against the New York Yankees, Monday, Oct. 7, 2019, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

The Twins released their playoff roster on Tuesday morning, three hours before the first game of their best-of-three playoff series against the Astros at Target Field. Center fielder Byron Buxton (concussion symptoms) is on the 28-man roster, but third baseman Josh Donaldson (calf) was left out.
Other things that are notable: Reliever Jorge Alcala is not the roster; starters Randy Dobnak and Jake Odorizzi will be used out of the bullpen; Willians Astudillo was added as a fourth catcher; and outfield prospect Alex Kirilloff, in a surprising move, was added to the roster.

Some thoughts.

  • Buxton’s presence in the lineup is a huge plus. There was concern after he was hit by a pitch in the head on Friday night and woke up Saturday with concussion symptoms. Buxton, who will hit second Tuesday, is a game-changer at the plate, on the bases and, especially, in center field. He makes difficult plays look routine and covers large portions of left and right field.
  • You have to wonder how long Donaldson will be out? He has struggled with calf injuries in recent years and this season was no different as he missed 30 games after going on the injured list in late July. Donaldson left Friday’s game after aggravating the injury and while the Twins called it a cramp at the time, it clearly is more than that. The Twins don’t need Donaldson to beat the Astros, but could use him for a potential playoff run. Donaldson wasn’t great at the plate in the shortened season, but he is a very good third baseman and his ability in the field will be missed. Marwin Gonzalez figures to become the regular third baseman with Donaldson out. Gonzalez is most valuable when he can be used in a variety of roles.
  • Twins manager Rocco Baldelli made an interesting but wise decision as he started rookie catcher Ryan Jeffers over Mitch Garver, who has had a miserable season that was interrupted by injury. Maybe we should have seen this decision coming, considering Jeffers caught Kenta Maeda’s final regular-season start last week against Detroit. Jeffers hit .273/.355/.436 with three homers and seven RBIs in 26 games. Garver hit .167/.247/.264 with two homers and five RBIs in 23 games.
  • Veteran lefthander Rich Hill was signed by the Twins as a free agent last offseason in large part to contribute in a playoff run. But that was before the playoff format was changed because of the pandemic. The best-of-three first round sets up for Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios and Michael Pineda to start. Hill threw 93 pitches in the Twins’ regular-season finale on Sunday against Cincinnati and, thus, was left off the playoff roster. We also don’t know if the Twins had any desire to bring the 40-year-old out of the bullpen. Hill will be ready to start if the Twins make it past Houston and into the American League Division Series.
  • Randy Dobnak’s late-season struggles resulted in a demotion off the 28-man roster and Jake Odorizzi struggled with injuries, going on the injured list three times. Both are on the playoff roster and could be used in long relief. Odorizzi figures to be back in the mix to a start in the ALDS (assuming Minnesota advances), while Dobnak is now an extra arm.
  • Hard-throwing righthander Jorge Alcala is able to miss bats and that’s why he was in the bullpen. But, as the Twins looked at their options for this series, they decided against having Alcala up. Alcala went 2-1 with a 2.63 ERA in 16 games this season and struck out 27 in 24 innings. His absence from the postseason roster was a bit of a surprise.
  • Here’s one I didn’t see coming. Willians Astudillo, who had been optioned off the 28-man roster, was added back on as a fourth catcher, utility infielder and pinch-hitter. Do the Twins really need a fourth catcher? An argument could be made that LaMonte Wade Jr., takes better at-bats than Astudillo and he can play outfield and first base. Ehire Adrianza gives you another option as a utility infielder as well, so it wasn’t as if Astudillo was absolutely necessary.