FORT MYERS, Fla. — Nelson Cruz and Miguel Sano couldn’t have been more enthused to go home and play in front of their hometown crowd.
The only thing they would change? They wish they could stay longer.
“It’s going to be a short turnaround,” Cruz said. “…We’re going to stay together most of the time, but they’re going to like it. It’s a great country.”
Indeed, the Twins’ turnaround in the Dominican Republic is going to be quick. The Twins left Friday and had a welcome reception scheduled for Friday night. They will have breakfast together as a team on Saturday morning before heading over to the stadium. Shortly after the midday exhibition game against the Detroit Tigers, the team will turn around for a flight back to Fort Myers and arrive home at about 7:30 p.m. local time.
“We’re going to try to take care of the guys that are going the best way possible,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “They probably will not play the whole game. They’ll probably go similar to the games that we have been playing, get a handful of at-bats, a couple of at-bats, two, three.”
Baldelli said the team would be bringing 10 pitchers and 20 position players. Devin Smeltzer, who is making a bid for the fifth spot in the pitching rotation, will start the game; veteran Ivan Nova is scheduled to start for the Tigers. Those who played in Saturday’s game aren’t likely to play on Sunday when the Twins make the trip across Daniels Parkway in Fort Myers to take on the Red Sox.
“We’re bringing our training staff, massage therapist, we’re bringing everyone we may need to help our guys get through the day, and we’ll go from there,” Baldelli said. “I’m not very worried about the demands of the trip except for the fact that it is going to be a quick trip.”
When Pool 1 of the qualifier for the World Baseball Classic gets underway later this month, there will be a few people with Twins ties participating.
That includes prospect Gabriel Maciel, who is from Brazil. The 21-year-old outfielder will represent his home country, while former Twins pitcher and special assistant LaTroy Hawkins will be the pitching coach on that team. Pitcher Niklas Rimmel, a 20-year-old right-hander from Berlin will represent Germany.
Pool 1 of the qualifier includes teams from Brazil, France, Germany, Nicaragua, Pakistan and South Africa, and will be played March 13-18 in Tucson, Ariz. The top two teams will advance to the World Baseball Classic, which will be played next year. Hall of famer Barry Larkin will manage team Brazil, while three-time World Series champion manager Bruce Bochy will lead the French team.
Max Kepler went 2-for-3 with an RBI on Friday against the Rays. … Prospect Trevor Larnach hit his third home run of the spring, tying him with Cruz for the team lead. … Matt Wallner, an outfielder who is from Forest Lake, hit a walk-off three-run homer to win the game for the Twins.