NEW YORK — In the days leading up to the Friday morning deadline to submit their American League Division Series roster, the Twins had “about 16,” different roster combinations that they were considering, general manager Thad Levine said.
But when it came time to make their final calls, they felt confident enough that both Luis Arraez and Ehire Adrianza were feeling healthy enough to be included, a significant development for the team. While the final roster decisions were relatively unsurprising, Martin Perez and Willians Astudillo were among those on the outside looking in.
Arraez, 22, suffered a Grade 1 right ankle sprain last week in Kansas City but had been using the days off to get treatment and recuperate. The rookie slashed .334/.399/.439 and worked his way into an everyday role after being called up earlier in the season. Behind the scenes, the Twins saw the infielder get better and better each day, but publicly, they didn’t comment much on whether he would be ready for Friday.
“I think our medical team at large did an absolutely phenomenal job with him. I think the player himself obviously applied himself and certainly healing favors the young,” general manager Thad Levine said. “The fact that he’s able to play … is fabulous for us. He had a ton of momentum, he is a very unique player in today’s game the way he approaches every at-bat. He’s a very important piece for our team so I think we’re ecstatic that he’s part of the ALDS for us.”
Though the injury originally looked potentially season-ending as Arraez fell down to the ground in pain and had to be taken off the field in a cart, manager Rocco Baldelli said the second baseman went from being non-weight bearing on the first day to walking around without a limp within a couple days and running another day or two after that.
The Twins didn’t give much of an indication on Adrianza’s status either. He suffered an oblique strain on Sept. 12 and had not played since then, but he had proclaimed himself 100% on Tuesday at the team’s workout.
“He provides us backup at so many of the spots, especially some of the spots where we have other guys who are coming back from injuries,” Levine said. “He was a guy that we were tracking and really hoping would be able to be on this roster. He’s a guy that certainly is still on the mend. I can’t say he’s perfect yet, but he’s reported very positively the last handful of days and our medical staff has supported that so he’s going to be a big part of the puzzle for us going forward.”
Though Max Kepler (shoulder) and Marwin Gonzalez (oblique) also missed much of September, their status was less up in the air than Adrianza and Arraez’s.
Including those four, the Twins have 13 position players on their roster: Jason Castro, Mitch Garver, Adrianza, Arraez, C.J. Cron, Gonzalez, Jorge Polanco, Miguel Sano, Jonathan Schoop, Jake Cave, Kepler, Eddie Rosario and Nelson Cruz.
Since the Twins have both Arraez and Adrianza healthy, there are no real surprises with their position player group. Astudillo made the trip with the team to New York, but was left off the roster while Cave got the nod over LaMonte Wade Jr. for the extra outfield spot.
The Twins will carry 12 pitchers on the roster: Jose Berrios, Randy Dobnak, Tyler Duffey, Kyle Gibson, Brusdar Graterol, Zack Littell, Trevor May, Jake Odorizzi, Taylor Rogers, Sergio Romo, Devin Smeltzer and Cody Stashak.
Missing, though not surprising, is Perez, who spent all but two weeks of the season in the Twins’ rotation. Though Perez started the year strong, he posted a 6.63 ERA in the final two months of the season, giving up 40 earned runs in 54 1/3 innings pitched.
“Martin has been extremely important for us this year. He’s taken the ball. He’s put us in spots to win games from April until now, and having to have that conversation with him wasn’t fun in any way,” Baldelli said.
But ultimately, the Twins opted not to carry him because the Yankees are a very right-handed heavy team and Perez, a lefty himself, performs much better against lefties.
“He’s definitely disappointed because he feels like he can help the team win games, but I talked to him (and said), ‘The only way you can help us now is to be a cheerleader. Go out there and give your best and make sure your teammates understand that you’re upset because you want to play, but at the same time, you give your best on the bench,'” designated hitter Nelson Cruz said.
Should they advance to the American League Championship series, the Twins have a chance to reset their roster, and Baldelli said Perez’s exclusion on the ALDS roster does not mean he wouldn’t potentially be an important piece later in October.
Rookie southpaw Lewis Thorpe is also off the roster while Smeltzer instead got the nod. Levine said Smeltzer was the choice in part because they thought he had the chance to provide them with the most length.
Cruz says he’d like to return
Cruz hasn’t been shy about his hopes that the Twins pick up his team option for 2020, and while it seems like a no-brainer, it’s a conversation Levine is planning to wait on.
“I think we recognize there are a few players on our teams that have options and that’s something that we’ll address once the season comes to a close but right now our focus is 100 percent on the New York Yankees,” Levine said.
Cruz, 39, slashed .311/.392/.639 with 41 home runs and driving in 108 runs while also providing an important veteran presence for the Twins in the clubhouse. The Twins, who are paying Cruz $14 million this year, have a club option for $12 million in 2020 on the designated hitter.
“Definitely I want to be back. I don’t have that call, but hopefully they can pick the option (up),” Cruz said. ���The future looks really bright for us, so I want to be part of winning teams for many years so hopefully they give me the chance to be back with the team.”