Pirates (2-7) at Twins (7-2) Series Preview

Many of the storylines write themselves, Derek Shelton returning to the city that made him a hot coaching candidate in the first place to face his good friend Rocco Baldelli. The two only spent two seasons together but Shelton has mentioned on numerous occasions he has borrowed from the time he spent there, and we’ve already seen evidence of that.

Here is a quote from Do-Hyoung Park who covers the Twins for MLB.com, “Rocco Baldelli and his staff are always thinking ahead and typically have their lineups for the following week’s games written out well in advance.” Sound familiar?

There are things we’ve seen in this early going that have alarmed fans and those who cover the team. Moves that seem counterintuitive to winning or even the stated goal of evaluation. From not pinch hitting when 90% of the fan base is yelling at the TV to pulling a pitcher 35 pitches into a perfect 3 inning outing. Sticking to the plan, is paramount to Shelton and while the two men aren’t clones, the shadow of Baldelli is very much so cast here in Pittsburgh. Obviously, the goal is to have his record follow too, but there is much work to do before that can become a reality.

Both men also have ties to the Tampa Bay Rays and the approach they each employ is at least representative of that system. This is a story of two teams in very different stages. Baldelli manning a rebuilt Twins team no longer poised to catch the league by surprise but expected to contend, while Shelton has just started his journey in Pittsburgh. The inverse records aren’t a fluke.

Tonight, the Pirates will start Derek Holland (0-0, 3.18 ERA) vs Lewis Thorpe (0-0, 0.00 ERA). This will be Thorpe’s first start of the season after two successful games out of the pen tossing 4.2 innings.

After that things get a little murky. The Pirates will toss Joe Musgrove and Trevor Williams, but the Twins have yet to announce their starters. Neither team has identified who will start in the fourth. This would be Mitch Keller’s spot and I expect it to go to Brubaker.

The Twins Bullpen which was an albatross last season is coming up aces thus far in 2020 and it’s a good thing because the starters that were already a question mark have caught the injury bug on top of it. The Twins have the ability to carry the club with offense though and so far, that’s what they’ve done.

Things to Look for:

  • Similarities. In short, see if you can pick up on things Baldelli does that might help explain some of the moves we’ve seen Shelton make.
  • Pirates pitching will have their work cut out for them, Minnesota is averaging 5.11 runs per game, as you’ve watched, the Pirates don’t.
  • The Twins rank third in home runs already with 16 and giving them up has been an issue for the Pirates. That’s not a nice recipe.
  • Who the Pirates use to start on Thursday will give us insight into how they feel about some players. If they use Brubaker it means they really see him as a potential starter which he has been throughout his entire career. Another option could be to split the Brault-Kuhl marriage but after refusing to allow Brault to go an extra inning after only 35 pitches and three innings on Sunday, I see this as very unlikely. Brubaker is my bet.
  • Will the Pirates projected best hitters start to find it? Kevin Newman showed something yesterday despite his mental lapses yesterday in the field and base paths. Reynolds did not start the game yesterday but struck out in a pinch-hitting experience, a trend not too many expected for him this season. Bell had the same experience but came through in his pinch hit. Many things can happen in this series, these few hitting or not is the most important.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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