In the minutes after the final pitch is thrown, members of the coaching staff and the front office gather in manager Rocco Baldelli’s Target Field office to debrief and discuss the game they just watched.
In that meeting on Sunday, one topic was the possibility of moving to a six-man rotation for the time being.
“I think that’s a possibility. I do,” Baldelli said. “Before I walked down here to talk to (the media), it’s one of the things we were just talking about. And we’ll continue to talk about.”
That’s because Dallas Keuchel had just thrown 6⅓ innings perfect innings before surrendering a double, and the man he replaced on the active roster, Joe Ryan, is nearly ready to return from a groin strain.
If Keuchel had turned in a performance like the one he had last week against Philadelphia — six runs in 1⅔ innings innings pitched — perhaps the conversation would have been different. But his dominant effort against the Pirates was impossible to ignore.
“He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do,” Baldelli said. “Dallas has thrown the ball really well. He’s put himself in a nice position through hard work and a lot of perseverance.”
The Twins started Monday with a six-game lead on second-place Cleveland in the American League Central with 38 regular-season games remaining; a six-man rotation would allow them to give their starters some extra rest as they start the stretch run. Bailey Ober, for example, has surpassed his career high in innings pitched, and 35-year-old Kenta Maeda missed all of last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. Sonny Gray and Pablo López, have yet to miss a start this season, piling up the innings.
Fresher starters in October is an appealing possibility for a team that has lost 18 straight postseason games.
The Twins have not said publicly when Ryan will return, but he threw four innings and gave up one run in a rehab start for St. Paul on Friday, tossing 71 pitches.
“I think he’s put himself in a good position going forward to get back in the rotation and get back to work,” Baldelli said Saturday. “I think he’s given us what we were kind of looking for with that start. We got what we were looking for.”
Should Ryan’s next start come in the major leagues as opposed to another rehab outing, which it seems likely, it will trigger a decision for the Twins, who will begin a stretch of nine straight games on Tuesday night in Milwaukee.
“In this game, you never know who’s going to be there week in and week out,” catcher Ryan Jeffers said. “You hope everyone can stay healthy but injuries are part of the game, so having depth like we do and having guys like (Louie) Varland kind of stuck down in Triple-A who have pitched well for us this year, too, it’s a good problem to have.”