MINNEAPOLIS, MN – MAY 27: Willi Castro #50 of the Minnesota Twins celebrates his solo home run as he crosses home plate while Alejandro Kirk #30 of the Toronto Blue Jays reacts in the seventh inning at Target Field on May 27, 2023 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Twins defeated the Blue Jays 9-7. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)
The Twins crossed the 50-game threshold earlier this week and are nearly a third of the way through their season, as one of the best pitching teams in the majors — bolstered by a starting staff led by earned-run average leader Sonny Gray (1.82) and Joe Ryan (2.21 ERA) — with an offense that they believe is better than it has shown.
The Twins, now 27-25 and in first place in the American League Central by two games, have gotten to this point largely on the backs of their starting staff, which has kept them in nearly every single they’ve played, despite weathering a pair of injuries to Kenta Maeda and Tyler Mahle, the latter of which was season ending.
Still, Twins leadership doesn’t feel like the club has played up to its full potential during the first 50 or so games, a sentiment that has been echoed within the clubhouse throughout the season.
“I don’t think we’ve hit our stride yet as a group,” manager Rocco Baldelli said Saturday afternoon before the Twins’ 9-7 win over the Blue Jays.
That’s mostly offensively, in which the Twins entered the day hitting .228 with a club OPS of .713, which was 20th of 30 teams. Many of the Twins’ losses in recent days have looked similar — a solid pitching performance coupled with an offensive effort that is just a hit or two away from breaking a game open.
“We have not put the complete ball games together on a consistent basis the way that I think we can and I only say I think we can because legitimately we’re an at-bat or two away or a play or two away or an inning out of the bullpen away from getting exactly where we need to be,” Baldelli said. “If you start actually playing well, which I anticipate and hopefully soon, the games aren’t close at that point either when your starters are throwing the ball the way that ours are. I think we’re getting there but we’re not there yet.”
Shortstop Carlos Correa, the team’s highest-paid player, entered the day hitting .215 with a 96 OPS+, a mark that is 4% worse than league average and far off from his own personal 127 OPS+. But he’s certainly not the only one who hasn’t produced as expected — the only regulars with an OPS+ over 100, which is league average, are Joey Gallo, Byron Buxton and Max Kepler, who is currently on the injured list.
Kepler is one of a handful of players expected to come back soon — Maeda, Jorge Polanco, Trevor Larnach, Caleb Thielbar and Royce Lewis are also on the injured list and are progressing towards returns, which will give the team a boost.
“I assess the overall group in terms of how are we formed right now. We’re pitching well. We think our offense is better than it has been to this point. We know it can be. The guys in that room would say the same thing,” president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said. “They want to be better. All we can assess is the work we’re putting in, the preparation every day, and how ready the guys are to go out there and compete every night, and I feel we’ve done that to this point.”
Correa (foot) came from Friday’s game feeling good, Baldelli said, but the Twins had already pre-planned an off day for the shortstop on Saturday with a day game after a night game. Correa is dealing with a strain in his left heel as well as plantar fasciitis and the Twins expect to have him out there again on Sunday and then back on a regular schedule, Baldelli said.
“The right thing to do is get him off his feet (Saturday) and have him back ready (Sunday) hopefully and then going forward, he’ll be in a good spot,” Baldelli said. “That’s our goal right now.”
Maeda (triceps strain) is likely to make multiple starts on his rehab assignment, which will begin on Tuesday. Maeda has been out for a month, last pitching in a game on April 26.