Kyle Gibson was given the assignment to take the mound for the first home game for the Minnesota Twins, an afternoon that was quite the cold opener to the team’s ninth season at Target Field.
He didn’t mind the 38-degree first-pitch temperature. That’s good, because the Twins have a 10-game homestand. Gibson will probably get another turn or two in the frigid air of this early April in the north that just won’t thaw .
“I’m the warmest guy out there. I’m the only one who’s moving every pitch and who’s that active, so I enjoy it,” said Gibson, who grew up outside of Indianapolis and played at Missouri before being drafted by the Twins.
Though the 30-year-old right-hander was removed in the fifth inning, the Twins rallied to beat Seattle 4-2 on Thursday . The sun was shining and the skies were dry above a ballpark that was remarkably clear of the nine inches or so of wet snow that fell on the area. Twins employees brought shovels to work on Wednesday to contribute to the cause, with President Dave St. Peter and general manager Thad Levine among the participants.
“It was different than shoveling your driveway,” St. Peter said. “This was part of something a bit bigger.”
The Twins and Mariners were off on Friday, when the forecast for Minneapolis called for a high of 23 degrees — which happens to be the major league record for first-pitch cold set in Denver in 2013 for an April game between Colorado and Atlanta.
Weather projections for the weekend matinees weren’t much more favorable: highs of 31 degrees on Saturday and 33 degrees on Sunday. There’s ample sunshine in the forecast for Saturday, but the snow was supposed to return on Sunday.
“We’ll take it one day at a time,” St. Peter said.
The Mariners are only scheduled for one visit to Minnesota. The same goes for Houston, which is due in for three games starting on Monday. The forecast looks better for early next week, but the first two games against the Astros are at night. The home ballpark in Houston for the World Series champions has a retractable roof.
These one-trip opponents make the club’s decision, in conjunction with major league officials and the players’ union, about postponements more complicated. Squeezing in a one-game series later in the season on common off dates is less than ideal, though easier now that the schedule is four days longer.
Cincinnati, Detroit, Kansas City and both New York teams have already had to call off games in the first week of play in 2018. The Twins played in Pittsburgh on Wednesday evening in swirling snow.
“It’s a crapshoot,” St. Peter said. “Early April baseball can be a challenge, weather wise. We talk about it every single year.”
Right-hander Jake Odorizzi, like Gibson, got a valuable taste of pitching in the cold with his start against the Pirates. His previous employer, the Tampa Bay Rays, didn’t provide this experience.
“It was good experimentation of what works in the cold weather and what doesn’t,” said Odorizzi, who also didn’t finish the fifth inning. “It was more the wind than the cold. That’s definitely the toughest part for me, getting a feel for the baseball and being able to command it. My command wasn’t very good because of that, but I was trying to learn and figure out how it would go. If that’s the worst that it can be in that situation, I think all things considered it was all right.”
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