The Week Ahead: Twins move into new home

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target-field-100407.jpgFor the first time since 1981, the Minnesota Twins will be playing a regular season home game outdoors when they host the Boston Red Sox on Monday.

The special occasion is the opening of Target Field, a sparkling new venue that opens its doors just nine years after folks were seriously considering contracting the Twins. Not a bad turnaround for a franchise that until recently was considered small market. (Don’t tell anyone, but the Twins’ payroll is at more than $97 million this season – that’s 10th in the league and just ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers.)

And while not everyone is thinking happy thoughts about the new ballpark (yes the Twins will have to keep winning for attendance to hold. Sheesh, can’t they enjoy the moment?)  it’s hard not to get excited about the prospect of a good team playing in a nice stadium. I’m sure you Rays fans out there salivate at the idea.

The real question, though, is whether or not the Twins can build a home-field edge similar to that of the Metrodome, where fly balls routinely became invisible against the Teflon roof, and a hitter’s concentration would turn to mush under the frenzied roar of the Twins faithful.

From listening to those who should know, this is no small thing. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, termed the “Metrodome mystique” as “half the battle.”

And former Twins center fielder Torii Hunter had even more to say:

“If we lost a ball [in the roof], we knew how to pick it up,” said the Angels’ Torii Hunter, who played a decade in the Metrodome.

Hunter laughed at the long-held suspicion that the Twins would turn on an air conditioner late in the game, with the home team at bat, the better to carry balls over the fence.

“We knew, when they opened the doors, all the pressure went out to right-center field, so we would swing for right-center field,” he said. “They thought it was an air conditioner. But the doors were let open in the seventh inning to let everybody leave.”

The changing air pressure never seemed to have any effect on Joe Nathan, but who knows, maybe they shut the doors in the top half of the ninth inning. What fan would want to leave at that point anyway?

Of course there will be no issues with air conditioning or air pressure at Target Field, only good, old-fashioned weather issues. But if you’re thinking the Twins will gain an edge playing outside in the Minnesota cold, remember these wise words of Joe Mauer: “We’ve got to play in it, too.”

Besides, it’s not going to matter, at least not on Monday. They’re expecting a high of 74. Our own Aaron Gleeman will be there covering the festivities. Follow him here, and on Twitter.

Red Sox at Twins, April 12, 14-15:
In addition to opening Target Field, these happen to be two pretty darn good baseball teams mixing it up this week. We get Jon Lester vs. Carl Pavano, John Lackey vs. Kevin Slowey, and Tim Wakefield vs. Francisco Liriano.

Athletics at Mariners, April 12-14: Oakland enters the week with a 1 1/2-game lead atop the AL West. Seattle is tied with the Angels at the bottom. What’s next? Dogs and cats living together? Mass hysteria?

Giants at Dodgers, April 16-18: When former New York teams move to California, they take their rivalry with them, and this is nothing if not a crazy, intense rivalry. Plus, you have this.

Mets at Cardinals, April 16-18: Always fun when you get a big city team playing against the game’s best player. Plus, there’s the added bonus of a likely Chris Carpenter-Johan Santana matchup on Saturday.

Rays at Red Sox, April 16-19: Big week for Boston, as after the trip to Minnesota they come home for four games against the Rays. Wonder if the Tampa Bay players will complain about the stadium.

Monday, 4:10 p.m. ET: Red Sox at Twins (ESPN)
Wednesday, 8:15 p.m.: Astros at Cardinals (ESPN2)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: White Sox at Indians (FOX)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Giants at Dodgers (FOX)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Mets at Cardinals (FOX)
Sunday, 1:35 p.m.: Rays at Red Sox (TBS)
Sunday, 8:05 p.m.: Mets at Cardinals (ESPN)
*Check local listings

Are you on Twitter? You can follow Bob here, and get all your HBT updates here.

Vin Scully to miss postseason after undergoing medical procedure

Los Angeles Dodgers Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully announces he will return to broadcast his 67th, and last baseball season in 2016, during a news conference in Los Angeles, Saturday, Aug. 29, 2015. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
AP Photo/Alex Gallardo
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The Dodgers announced this afternoon that legendary broadcaster Vin Scully underwent a “recommended medical procedure” this morning and will miss the the postseason. The good news is that he’s said to be “resting comfortably.”

Scully, who turns 88 next month, was expected to do radio broadcasts for the Dodgers the postseason. While he’ll skip the playoffs at the advice of his doctors, the Dodgers said that he’s looking forward to returning for his 67th season in the booth in 2016. Scully said in August that it will be his last.

On behalf of all baseball fans, get well soon, Mr. Scully.

Josh Donaldson leaves Game 1 of ALDS with head injury

Josh Donaldson
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Both starting third basemen have left Game 1 of the Rangers-Blue Jays series with injuries.

Adrian Beltre exited with a back injury in the second inning and now Josh Donaldson has left the game an inning after taking a knee to the head while trying to break up a double play.

It’s natural to wonder if Donaldson suffered a concussion on the play, particularly since Justin Morneau, then of the Twins, had his career derailed by a knee to the head on a nearly identical takeout slide in Toronto back in 2010. For now the Blue Jays are saying Donaldson left as a “precaution,” but as a Twins fan that play immediately flashed into my mind.

Donaldson will either win or finish runner-up for AL MVP after hitting .297 with 41 homers and a .939 OPS in 158 games during his first season in Toronto.

ALDS, Game 1: Astros vs. Royals

Texas Rangers v Kansas City Royals
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Here are the Astros and Royals lineups for Game 1 of the ALDS in Kansas City:

2B Jose Altuve
RF George Springer
SS Carlos Correa
LF Colby Rasmus
DH Evan Gattis
3B Luis Valbuena
1B Chris Carter
C Jason Castro
CF Jake Marisnick

SP Collin McHugh

Carlos Gomez started in center field and homered in the Wild Card game, but he’s on the bench tonight due to a lingering intercostal injury. According to manager A.J. Hinch he’s available to pinch-hit and is expected to start Game 2, but clearly Gomez’s health will be something to watch all series long.

SS Alcides Escobar
2B Ben Zobrist
CF Lorenzo Cain
1B Eric Hosmer
DH Kendrys Morales
3B Mike Moustakas
C Salvador Perez
LF Alex Gordon
RF Alex Rios

SP Yordano Ventura

Alcides Escobar has a .298 career on-base percentage, including a .293 OBP with 26 walks in 148 games this season, but because the Royals have a very good win-loss record in games when he’s hit leadoff manager Ned Yost has him atop the lineup tonight. Alex Gordon, who led the Royals in OBP at .377, is batting eighth.