Twins remain hopeful Anthony DeSclafani can be ready by Opening Day despite brief shutdown

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The Minnesota Twins remain optimistic about Anthony DeSclafani’s Opening Day chances while exercising caution after the pitcher ended a brief shutdown period by throwing a bullpen session Friday.

Sidelined with a flexor forearm strain last season, DeSclafani was briefly shut down after experiencing soreness in his right elbow after participating in his second live batting practice session, team trainer Nick Paparesta said. But Paparesta said the soreness wasn’t unexpected as DeSclafani began to ramp up his throwing.

The way DeSclafani has recently physically responded since his throwing was halted and the message he’s communicating to the Twins — along with the time left in camp — have Paparesta hopeful the veteran can be ready to pitch when the season begins later this month.

“We’re at four weeks now,” Paparesta said. “I think there’s still plenty of time to get him ready. … It’s how he’s doing, each day recovering, coming back. The biggest question is: ‘Does it feel the same as yesterday?’ ‘Yes?’ ‘Great.’ We did 120 feet and he threw the ball with the best effort he could. ‘Great. Let’s move to the next stage.’”

The Twins acquired DeSclafani and $8 million cash from the Seattle Mariners on Jan. 29, the pitcher’s second trade of the offseason. The San Francisco Giants previously traded him to Seattle in the Jan. 5 deal for Robbie Ray. They’re only paying him $4 million with the hope DeSclafani can regain his 2021 form, when he went 13-7 with a 3.17 ERA and 152 strikeouts in 167 2/3 innings.

DeSclafani was limited to 19 games (18 starts) for the Giants last season before he was sidelined with the flexor strain. When he reported to Twins camp last month, DeSclafani said he’d had a normal offseason and felt good after receiving a PRP injection. DeSclafani’s velocity had been touching 94-95 mph in recent throwing sessions.

Paparesta suspects the soreness was the result of the ramp-up in intensity.

“You cannot mimic the intent of someone getting in the box,” Paparesta said. “It’s more of getting him up to speed at that full effort level and then you’re getting a little bit more soreness from that and then us trying to find the time to pull back and evaluate and getting him a little more recovery time.”

Depending on where they want to insert him in the rotation, the Twins should have plenty of time to prepare DeSclafani if he maintains good health. Even though the team opens the regular season in Kansas City on March 28, its opening-week schedule includes days off on March 29, April 1 and April 5.

Were they to need to skip his turn the first time through, DeSclafani could very easily have at least five weeks to build up. Twins manager Rocco Baldelli suggested the team would handle DeSclafani cautiously with the big picture in mind.

“We’re at the beginning stages of that right now,” Baldelli told reporters in Fort Myers, Fla. “We have different kinds of markers and stages of his ramp-up that he’s going to have to be able to hit. There’s no reason to think he shouldn’t be able to do that at this point, though. I’m still optimistic about him pitching early in the year for us, but we’re going to take the time to do it the right way. We’re going to make sure we take care of him and then we ramp him. It’s clearly not going to be an ultra-aggressive ramp-up. It’s going to be a ramp-up that we know we have to take a little bit of time each step of the way and do it the right way because we’re doing this for the long haul, not just to try to get him back out there on the mound. But again, I’m optimistic.”

The Twins have several young pitchers throwing well in camp if DeSclafani’s health delays him any further.

Vying for a rotation spot that currently doesn’t exist, Louie Varland could be inserted if DeSclafani is sidelined. Varland already has 15 career starts on his resume and thinks further refinement of a two-seam fastball he began to throw at Triple A last season should help him improve against right-handed hitters. Varland struck out four batters in two scoreless innings in Friday’s exhibition victory over the Boston Red Sox.

The team also likes the way young pitcher Simeon Woods Richardson looks in camp after he spent a month in velocity camp in January. Woods Richardson, who had a 3.10 ERA in 66 2/3 innings with 56 strikeouts at Triple A from July on, has touched 95 mph early in camp, a number he previously struggled to hit with consistency.

The team also received encouraging signs when prospect Matt Canterino generated nine swings and misses in his first outing of any kind since he underwent Tommy John surgery. Canterino last pitched for the Twins on July 30, 2022.

But for now, the hope remains that DeSclafani will get back on track. DeSclafani graduated to a bullpen session Friday after responding well to playing long toss four of the previous five days, Paparesta said.

“We have an idea of what we’re dealing with and we have an experienced player who does understand his body and what he’s feeling right now,” Baldelli said. “He knows what he’s going to need, but obviously our medical staff will have a big say in it, too.”

Thielbar works back from hamstring strain

Reliever Caleb Thielbar also ended a shutdown period with a bullpen session Friday, Paparesta said. The left-handed reliever was sidelined with a left hamstring strain.

Thielbar is still likely a week away from pitching in live batting practice. Because relief pitchers don’t need as much of a build-up as starters, Paparesta said he is confident Thielbar will be ready for the regular season.

“We presume him to have a pretty standard build-up for the rest of spring training and he should be fine for Opening Day,” Paparesta said.

— Staff writer Andy McCullough contributed to this report.

(Photo of Anthony DeSclafani: Brace Hemmelgarn / Minnesota Twins / Getty Images)





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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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