Twins starting infielders have seen little time together this spring

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Megan Ryan, Star Tribune
·4 min read
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Opening Day is 11 days away, and the projected starting infield for the Twins has played together only twice in spring training.

But that limited time together might not be that big of a problem come April 1 at Milwaukee.

Miguel Sano at first base, Jorge Polanco at second base, Andrelton Simmons at shortstop and Josh Donaldson at third base are likely the first choices at each of their positions around the diamond. Simmons is the new face in that group, a four-time Golden Glove winner who signed with the Twins for a year back in January. He was also the last face to arrive at camp, two weeks ago after visa issues delayed his departure from his native Curacao before he went through COVID-19 protocols.

Manager Rocco Baldelli said it's important for the group to play together, which it most recently did March 16, though an adductor injury for Polanco cut that a bit short.

"We need to make sure that we're not going through stretches where guys are not spending time with each other," Baldelli said. "It's hard to sometimes make it work perfectly all the time in spring training. But yes, those are definitely considerations."

Baldelli added it wouldn't take long for the infielders to not only become accustomed to, but benefit from Simmons being on the field next to them. Polanco, who played again Sunday after his injury, said he has talked with Simmons a lot already .even if that hasn't quite amounted to game time.

"We have been working on communication," Polanco said, adding that the two have also figured out various ground-ball situations. "… We also have been working on double plays, a lot of double plays. On how to slow the game down, how to get one out, make sure you we've got the ball. All that kind of stuff."

Off the field, Polanco said Simmons is "a really good guy" who has shared how he has handled transitioning away from the Los Angeles Angels, where he had played since 2016, as well as his family life. New relief pitcher Hansel Robles was also with the Angels for the past three seasons and called Simmons "always happy" but a little quiet, though he becomes welcoming and good to talk to once he knows someone.

Polanco and Sano began playing together as minor leaguers in 2010, so they have had years to build chemistry with each other. But there have been plenty of moving parts. Second baseman Luis Arraez came up to the Twins in 2019 and will now oscillate through his main position, third base and even left field. Donaldson was new last year but played in less than half of the 60-game season because of injuries.

That injury is partly why Baldelli plans to be flexible with his lineups. He has had Arraez making starts in the infield, as well as moving Sano back over to third base and outfielder Alex Kirilloff to first.

"We've had Luis Arraez making a lot of trips [this spring] for a couple of reasons," Baldelli said. "… He needs to spend time with all of these guys, too, at different spots on the field. We continue to mix and match, just like we're going to do during the season, to make sure everyone's comfortable, and we're getting a sufficient amount of time and experience next to each other."

So in that way, Simmons isn't the only one feeling out a different situation. Polanco is making his return to second after four seasons at shortstop. Arraez will show off his new utility abilities. Donaldson has to prove injuries won't undermine his four-year, $92 million contract.

And they now all have another veteran defensive player to lean on through all that.

"I think despite us not having a normal environment right now where everyone's kind of hanging out, sitting in the food room and talking and building those relationships because of our protocols," said Derek Falvey, the Twins chief baseball officer, "[Simmons has] found a way to already make an impact on Luis Arraez and Jorge Polanco, and he and Josh Donaldson [are] talking about infield and conditioning and things like that. He's fit in seamlessly, probably a little more quickly than I would have even [imagined]."