The old slogan, “Wait Till Next Year” applies to both the Chicago Cubs and Minnesota Twins as they open a two-day series on Tuesday night in Minneapolis.
However, both clubs are already in the midst of getting a head start on evaluating some of their talent for the 2022 season after trading awaysome veteran cornerstone players before the trade deadline.
Chicago, which will start right-hander Zach Davies (6-10, 5.00 ERA) in Tuesday night’s opener, has used a team-record 63 players so far in a season that saw it trade away longtime stars Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber and Javier Baez, who led them to the 2016 World Series championship and three National League Central titles over the last five years.
The Cubs arrive at Target Field 18 games below .500 and coming off a 13-1 thumping by the crosstown rival Chicago White Sox on Sunday afternoon.
One bright spot in the loss was the major league debut of first baseman Alfonso Rivas, who went 2-for-3 and singled up the middle on the first big league pitch he saw from White Sox starter Dylan Cease, a fastball that clocked in at 98 mph.
“You’re talking about some real velocity,” said Cubs manager David Ross. “Nice job jumping that first heater. His first at-bat, get that thing out of the way. And I thought he really managed the plate well.”
Rivas, who had a .405 on-base percentage at Triple-A Iowa, also doubled in the contest. Reliever Scott Effross also made his MLB debut and gave up a two-run homer to Luis Robert in two-thirds of an inning on the mound.
“I think it’s healthy for the space we’re in, where it’s real opportunities for guys,” said Ross. “That’s exciting for them, when guys get to come in, get called up and have a chance to make their mark in the major leagues.”
The two-time defending AL Central champion Twins, who dealt All-Star DH Nelson Cruz as well as starting pitchers Jose Berrios and J.A. Happ and reliever Hansel Robles near the deadline, have focused on rebuilding their starting pitching staff with 6-foot-9 right-hander Bailey Ober, right-hander Griffin Jax and rookie lefty Charlie Barnes all getting strong looks. Right-hander John Gant (4-8, 4.00 ERA), acquired in the Happ deal from St. Louis, where he split time in the bullpen and the starting rotation, will make his third start for the Twins on Tuesday. Gant is 2-3 with a 3.72 ERA in 17 career appearances and four starts against the Cubs.
Ober improved to 2-2 after allowing two runs on five hits over six innings in Minnesota’s 3-2 victory at Detroit on Monday afternoon. That win guaranteed the AL Central cellar-dwellers their first winning month (14-12) of the season.
Ober is 1-1 with a 2.81 ERA with six walks and 40 strikeouts in eight starts since the All-Star break. Jax, the first player from the Air Force Academy to play major league baseball, is 3-3 with a 6.71 ERA in 12 games and eight starts but has allowed 15 earned runs over 9 2/3 innings in his last two starts at Boston and Sunday against Milwaukee.
“There’s a lot going on with these guys right now,” said Twins manager Rocco Baldelli. “They’re being exposed to this, and (we’re) letting them go out there and swim for themselves, but they’re going to run into bumps and we’re going to see some of that stuff.”
–Field Level Media