Minnesota Twins: The St. Paul Saints are an Essential Lifeline
By Greg Simbeck
The Minnesota Twins season has obviously been a disappointment to the team and its fans. The Twin’s problems have been well chronicled so there is no need to mention them here. As awful as that has been, having the Triple-A affiliate team, the St. Paul Saints, be so close by has been incredible.
As the Minnesota Twins have suffered injury after injury this year, the Saints have come to the rescue supplying quality players for the Twins’ patchwork lineups. Also, because of these injuries, several Minnesota Twins players have completed rehab assignments in St. Paul.
The Minnesota Twins have been extremely lucky to have their Triple-AAA affiliate so close.
This has allowed team officials to monitor players progress as they return from an injury. Also, when it is time to activate a player, it’s just a short car ride on I-94 from the Saintly City to Target Field and the player is back with the big club. And that has been a busy stretch of freeway this season.
Byron Buxton, Luis Arraez, Max Kepler, and Kenta Maeda have completed rehab assignments at CHS Field. The most notable of these being Buxton’s short stint with the Saints, where he played 3 games in St. Paul and earned 5 hits, 4 runs, a double, a triple, 2 home runs, and 7 RBI. This was a loud and clear signal to the Minnesota Twins that Buxton was ready to return to the team.
In addition, Alex Kirilloff, Ryan Jeffers, Willians Astudillo, Devin Smeltzer, Lewis Thorpe, Cody Stashak, and Randy Dobnak have all made the trip to St. Paul to work on issues that they were having at the plate or on the mound.
Jeffers found his power stroke while with the Saints and Kiriloff proved in just two games in St. Paul that the Twins made a mistake not bringing him north with the team out of spring training, playing like one of the best rookies in baseball.
The list of Saints players and prospects that have been called up to aid the Minnesota Twins is long and illustrious. Hitters that have been called up include Trevor Larnach, Rob Refsnyder, Gilberto Celestino, Nick Gordon, Brent Rooker, Ben Rortvedt, Travis Blankenhorn, Tzu-Wei Lin, and JT Riddle.
A notable contribution has come from Larnach, who appears to be one of the Twins corner outfielders for the next ten years. Also filling in nicely are Refsnyder and Gordon who, despite never playing the position before, have played very well in center field. Both are also currently hitting over .300.
The pitchers on this list include Luke Farrell, Griffin Jax, Derek Law, Juan Minaya, and Bailey Ober. The star of this group is undoubtedly 30-year-old Farrell, who in 13 relief appearances carries an ERA of 1.76 and a WHIP of 1.17. He unfortunately is now on the 10-day injured list with a right oblique strain.
In addition to all of this, Michael Pineda has a rehab start for St. Paul this week which hopefully will lead to an activation by the Twins next week. Mitch Garver is slated for a rehab with the Saints starting next weekend. And perhaps we will see Buxton make a rehab appearance for the Saints sometime in August as he recovers from a broken hand.
Minnesota Twins Manager Rocco Baldelli and Saints Manager Toby Gardenhire must be commended for the flexibility and patience they have shown during this chaotic period. If the Twins are to make a playoff run in the second half of the season, some of the aforementioned players will play a significant role in that stretch drive.
If not, at least the Twins have gotten an early look at some of their more promising prospects, and the team can be extremely happy with the move to St. Paul that made this entire situation possible.