SB Nation Blog
The opponent in one sentence
The Twins are still trying to get over the postseason hump, but they’ve been among the best regular season teams in the league for a few years now, and there’s little reason to expect anything different this year.
Down a bit. The Twins are very much playing like a .500 club in that they aren’t really going on any big streaks in either direction in this very early portion of the season. Their latest little stumble, though, has been losing two games at home to the Mariners after taking the first game of the series. In all, they’ve lost three of their last five.
4/12: Martín Pérez vs. J.A. Happ, 2:10 PM ET (MLB Network for out of market)
The Red Sox complete their second turn through the rotation on Monday as Martín Pérez makes his second start of 2021. The lefty was basically what we expect him to be in his first appearance of the year, which came against the Rays. And what we expect him to be is definitely not a star, but a guy who can certainly keep a team in ballgames. The southpaw did that in his first start, allowing three runs over five innings of work with six strikeouts and two walks. He’ll have a big challenge on his hands in Minnesota, which of course also happens to be where he called home for a short time prior to coming to Boston. Look for him to potentially be a little more cautious around the zone, as this is the kind of lineup that can punish mistakes, particularly against pitchers with his kind of middling stuff.
On the other side, the Red Sox will be facing off against a lefty with whom they are plenty familiar. Happ is not a former Red Sox player, but rather a former Yankees rotation member who was in the AL East for years before signing with Minnesota this winter. Boston has notoriously had some major issues against the veteran southpaw, but those are not quite as consistent as they once were. He can still give them fits, as can all kinds of low-velocity lefties, but it’s not the given it once felt like. In his Twins debut Happ only allowed one run over four innings of work, but he did allow three hits and three walks while striking out four. Last season he was surprisingly effective for the Yankees with a 3.47 ERA, though the FIP was over a run worse. Happ will work off a four-seam fastball that sits around 90 mph to go with a slider, a sinker and a changeup.
4/13: Nathan Eovaldi vs. Kenta Maeda, 2:10 PM ET
Eovaldi wasn’t supposed to be the Opening Day starter and the leader of this staff, and with Eduardo Rodriguez back you can debate who takes that role. It doesn’t really matter though, and whatever box you want to place him in Eovaldi has been successful. As we say every time we talk about him health is the issue, but he’s showing how good he can be when he’s healthy with his early starts. This has been a particularly eye-opening start to the year for the righty as well as he continues to diversify his repertoire rather than leaning too heavily on his fastball. He’s throwing more breaking balls this year, and it’s helped lead to a 1.46 ERA with 11 strikeouts to four walks over his first 12 1⁄3 innings of the season.
Eovaldi is, to me, the most underrated talent on the Red Sox roster. On the other side may be the most underrated pitcher in all of baseball. Maeda’s talent has always been a bit under the radar for different reasons. For most of his career, while with the Dodgers, he was shifted back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen, often pitching in a relief role once the postseason rolled around. He got to Minnesota last year and was amazing, but it was a season where frankly people just weren’t paying attention. We’re talking about a guy, though, who had a 2.70 ERA last year and consistently strikes out more than a batter per inning while keeping his walks in check. This year he has a 2.61 ERA through two starts. Maeda will lean a lot on his secondaries, with both his slider and changeup typically being thrown more frequently than his fastball.
4/14: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. José Berríos, 2:10 PM ET
Rodriguez being back was the best story of the year so far for the Red Sox, and now he’s looking to build upon that first appearance to take control of this rotation and become the clear number one, as alluded to above. His first start was certainly a step in the right direction, though there are still strides to be made. His command was a bit off with everything, particularly early in the outing. His fastball velocity also was down a bit on top of that. Of course, that’s to be expected both given everything he’s gone through since last summer as well as the more recent bout with dead arm. It would have been silly to expect him to look like an ace right off the bat, and he was as close as we could’ve reasonably expected. Now it’s about continuing to take steps forward from that point.
This is going to be the first time the Red Sox play the Twins since 2019 due to last year’s schedule being regionalized. That season featured an absolutely incredible pitching matchup between Rick Porcello and Berríos. Porcello ended up getting the better of that matchup, but the performance of Berríos — one run over eight innings with 10 strikeouts and no walks — is the kind that you remember whenever you see the guy pitch. He has that kind of upside and he shows it here and there, though maybe not quite as much as Twins fans would like. Even if he’s not a bona fide ace, though, he’s still a very good number two and has the potential to shut down any lineup on any given night. The righty will feature a pair of fastballs in the mid-90s along with a changeup and a curveball.
4/15: Garrett Richards vs. Michael Pineda, 1:10 PM ET (MLB Network for out of market)
Finishing off this series for the Red Sox is Richards, who has been the worst part of the rotation to this point. After getting knocked all around in his debut with the team, he got off to a rough start on Saturday as well before settling down in the back half of that start. Now, he’s looking to build off the momentum from the latter portion of the outing here, albeit against one of the toughest lineups in the AL. Right now the biggest concern is the control. This had never really been an issue for him in the majors so the walks in spring training were largely waved off. It’s still too early to be too concerned here, but he’s up to five walks in seven innings of work. Not only does he need to throw strikes in this matchup, he needs to throw good ones because this lineup will punish easy pitches to hit, too.
This is a second long-time Yankee the Red Sox will be seeing in this series. Pineda hasn’t been in New York for a few years, having started pitching for the Twins in 2019 after recovering from Tommy John. Injuries have continued to be an issue here and there for him, but when he’s healthy he’s been a really solid mid-rotation arm for Minnesota. He doesn’t always get the strikeouts you might expect from his stuff, but he’s very good at limiting his walks. The key to beating him is taking advantage of mistakes and hitting balls out of the yard, something the Red Sox are doing quite a bit leading into this series. Pineda’s fastball velocity has dropped a bit from his Yankees days, falling down to the 90-92 range these days, and he’ll also throw a slider and a changeup.
Notable Position Players
Byron Buxton is one of the biggest stories in baseball so far in this young season, having led the way in Minnesota’s lineup. A long time top prospect who had injuries derail his progress year after year, he’s healthy right now and mashing. He already has five homers and is second in baseball in fWAR.
Nelson Cruz has also been mashing in this Twins lineup. Somehow continuing to defy age, Cruz remains a threat to leave the yard every time he steps in the box. He has four home runs in this young season.
Luis Arraez will hit at the top of this lineup and while he doesn’t possess the power of the other two above him, he makes a ton of contact and will get on base in front of the sluggers time and time again.
Max Kepler is somewhat quietly a really productive member of this lineup. He doesn’t really do any one thing exceedingly well, but he’s solid across the board.
Jorge Polanco had a big year as a high-on base guy in 2019, but he’s been on a downward trajectory since then and needs to find a way to regain some of that old BABIP skill.
Andrelton Simmons is mostly known for his defense as in his prime he was one of the best to play shortstop of all time, but he’s been hitting as well to start this season.
Miguel Sanó is another big-time slugger in this lineup, but his issues with making contact bring down the overall value of his offense.
Jake Cave will provide solid defense and baserunning, but at the plate he strikes out too much for his middling power profile.
Mitch Garver had a big breakout with his power a couple of years ago, but while he’s still been a solid hitting catcher he hasn’t been able to recapture that magic to this point.
Alex Colomé was connected to the Red Sox at points this winter but ultimately signed with the Twins to become their closer. It’s been a tough start to that marriage, as Colomé has been hit around a bit to the tune of a 6.75 ERA through his first five appearances.
Taylor Rogers has always been a really steady late-inning option for Minnesota who they feel comfortable deploying in just about any situation.
Hansel Robles got some run as the Angels closer not all that long ago, and when he’s on he’s dominant, but he also goes through tough stretches with his command. So far this year, he’s been on.
Josh Donaldson suffered a bit of a hamstring issue on Opening Day that landed him on the injured list. As of this writing it’s not clear when he’ll return, but it will almost certainly be at some point during this series and potentially as soon as Monday.
Edwar Colina had some elbow problems pop up in camp and they were bad enough to land him on the 60-day injured list.
Brent Rooker hit the injured list last week with a strain in his neck. It’s not clear right now how much time he’ll miss.
It’s not going to be a terribly nice week in Minneapolis with overcast in the forecast most days, but only Monday looks like it could have issues with any cancellations or delays. There is some rain in the forecast throughout the day on Monday, but right now it looks like it may not be enough to have to cancel the game, but obviously that can change.