The Twins own the best record in the American League with three of five projected starting pitchers on the injured list. They should get even better Saturday when Jake Odorizzi, one of those three, makes his 2020 debut against the Kansas City Royals.
"I've been feeling good for a while now," Odorizzi said Thursday. "I just needed some time to build up. I'm ready to go. It seems about that time to get going. I'm ready to be in a real game again."
Odorizzi (2019: 15-7, 3.51 ERA) started the abbreviated season on the IL with a right intercostal strain suffered toward the end of summer camp. He may have been able to return sooner, but the depth of the Twins staff made it an easy decision.
"If I had rushed it, it could have been a thing that lingered the entire year," he said. "Having the flexibility of 30 guys on the roster right now kind of gave us a little extra leeway with that. Taking it a little bit slower might have been the right move, considering all that's been happening. There's still some things to iron out, of course. I don't really have any expectations going into the game."
Odorizzi spent time in the Royals farm system, though he had only two starts for the big league club. He was involved in two of the trades that helped build the 2015 World Series champions. He was one of four players -- along with Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar and Jeremy Jeffress -- the Royals received when they sent Zack Greinke to the Milwaukee Brewers in December 2010. Two years later, he was traded -- with Wil Myers and current Royal Mike Montgomery -- to the Tampa Bay Rays for James Shields and Wade Davis.
Odorizzi is 3-5 with a 4.88 ERA in 11 appearances (10 starts) in his career against the Royals. He has 53 strikeouts in 55 1/3 innings.
The Twins will be looking to snap a two-game skid Saturday against the Royals.
One of the Royals batters that Odorizzi will have to retire is Adalberto Mondesi, the Royals shortstop who has hit everywhere from second to eighth (other than cleanup) in the lineup already this season. He's hitting .268 after starting the season 2-for-21. Royals manager Mike Matheny won't commit to a "best spot" for his budding star.
"I think we can sometimes overplay the spots in the lineup," Matheny said. "The data can help us see how to use each guy properly. That's going to be the focus.
"Then there's comfortability. Some guys like hitting in certain places. They're all fighting for the most important spots. When all of us came up, all we wanted to do was hit third, because that's what they told us was the most important guy.
"But the game has evolved and there's so much importance with each spot. You never know where that most important spot is going to come up. If guys have a propensity to get on base, you're going to find them near the top of the order."
Matheny will send veteran Danny Duffy (0-2, 4.11) to the mound against the Twins. Duffy will be looking for his first win, though he has been effective in his three starts. He's 6-3 with a 3.13 ERA in 23 career appearances (19 starts) against the Twins.
--Field Level Media