Twins’ Baldelli to Cruz: ‘We’d love to see you in spring’

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota Twins manager Rocco Baldelli was discussing the state of his roster in baseball’s so-far quiet offseason, making no secret of the team’s desire to re-sign designated hitter Nelson Cruz.

Baldelli pushed his interest in the 40-year-old free agent a step further, taking a few seconds out of his video conference call on Tuesday with reporters to make a pretend pitch to the six-time All-Star.

“Nelson, if you’re watching, which I know you’re not, we’d love to see you in spring training, and I’ll talk to you soon,” Baldelli said, smiling at the camera on his computer.

Cruz has batted .308 with 57 home runs, 141 RBIs and a 1.020 OPS in 173 games with the Twins, their best hitter over the two seasons Baldelli has managed the team and a significant reason why they’ve won the AL Central both years.

If Major League Baseball adopts the universal DH, the market for Cruz would significantly expand. Regardless of the ramifications on his team’s ability to court Cruz, Baldelli said he’s in favor of continuing that rule from the pandemic-shortened 2020 season — along with the seven-inning doubleheaders.

“I think we’re going to continue to see these kinds of changes in the game, and most of them I think are going to function just fine,” Baldelli said.

Left fielder Eddie Rosario and multi-positional player Marwin González joined Cruz in the free agent pool, creating an opening in the lineup that top-tier prospect Alex Kirilloff could soon fill.

If Cruz were to sign elsewhere, some of his designated hitter duty could go to Josh Donaldson. Last year’s prize addition on a four-year, $92 million contract, Donaldson’s long-problematic right calf muscle limited him to 28 games in 2020. He’s a slick-fielding third baseman who adds significant value with his glove, but he’s not helping in the trainer’s room.

“J.D. at this point in his career is interested in one thing, and it’s being on the field, it’s being healthy, and the next step of that is being healthy also at the end of the year so he can help the team win the World Series. That’s what he wants. That’s where his mentality is,” said Baldelli, who spoke with Donaldson this week. He added: “Obviously, we’re a different team when he’s out there. He’s an exceptional player.”

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