Twins Thursday: Let’s play two … really cold contests

Twins mascot T.C. shovels snow off the top of the Twins dugout and into the television camera pit on Thursday at Target Field.  

Ann Heisenfelt/AP

MINNEAPOLIS — When many across Twins Territory woke up on Thursday morning, they likely saw snow covering their lawns and streets — hardly baseball weather.

Yet despite snow overnight and a temperature of 31 degrees by game time, the Minnesota Twins and Toronto Blue Jays indeed began their doubleheader on time. Wednesday’s game was postponed due to weather, and the two sides made it up with Thursday’s split doubleheader.

The temperature at Target Field when Minnesota right-hander Kyle Gibson threw his first pitch was 31 degrees. According to official scorer and baseball historian Stew Thornley, it was the coldest temperature ever for the start of a Twins game outdoors. The previous Target Field record was 34 degrees, while the coldest game at Metropolitan Stadium was 32 degrees on May 2, 1967 against the New York Yankees.

Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony said neither side had much interest in making up Wednesday’s game later in the year. Minnesota and Toronto have several mutual off days later in the season, but things become complicated when trying to cram one makeup game into a busy late-season schedule.

"We discussed it, but neither team really wanted to do it," Antony said prior to Thursday’s first game. "It’s tough travel-wise. They didn’t really want to do it, and we didn’t really want to do it. . . . It didn’t make a lot of sense when you take both teams into consideration."

Thursday’s chilly temperatures are sure to yield sparse crowds at Target Field. Had the Twins rescheduled the second game for a warmer month, the team might have seen a bigger number turn out at the gates.

But Antony said common sense trumps making money when it came to rescheduling the postponed game.

"You can look at it and say, ‘Well at this date, we’d probably get more fans,’" Antony said. "But you have to take everything into consideration. . . . This actually works out well for us because we can pitch both our guys, we go to Kansas City, play three, have the off day, everybody stays right on schedule."

Making a lineup for a day-night doubleheader — especially for the second game — is never easy for a manager. Twins skipper Ron Gardenhire also has to factor in the weather as he tries to keep all of his players healthy (and warm) Thursday.

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"The first (lineup) was pretty easy. I just print what we had. I like that lineup," Gardenhire said. "For the second game, you want to try to use as much as you possibly can and give everybody an opportunity to get some swings in, but also you have to see how the first game goes. We might make a plan for a guy to play shortstop or second base, and my shortstop might get four hits so he might play the second game, too. We’ll just see how the first game goes and ad-lib for the second one."

Nunez available for second game: Major League Baseball rules allow teams to add a 26th player to their rosters for doubleheaders. A new version of the rule, however, stipulates that the additional player is only available for the second game, allowing both teams enough time to transport a player from his minor-league club.

The Twins will use infielder Eduardo Nunez as the 26th man for Thursday’s second game. Minnesota acquired Nunez from the New York Yankees earlier this season and optioned him to Triple-A Rochester. In six games with the Red Wings, Nunez hit .318 with a home run and three RBI.

"He’s been swinging good," Gardenhire said of Nunez. "He’s playing a little bit of third base, a little bit of shortstop. I think his problem is he hasn’t been in the field very much. He was out for like 10 days before we got him. . . . We know what he is. He can make the plays. He gets a little sloppy at times, from our reports. But I want to really see it myself."

Gardenhire didn’t commit before the first game Thursday as to whether or not Nunez was in the lineup for the second game. Given that he’ll head back to Rochester after Thursday’s game, there’s a good chance Nunez will play so Gardenhire and the Twins’ front office can scout a player who will likely be up in the majors again at some point this year.

"It’s an opportunity to get a look at him," Antony said. "Nunez is on the roster. Bring him up. If all goes well, he’s planning to head back to Rochester tomorrow morning."

Gophers coach sends gift to Gardenhire: University of Minnesota football coach Jerry Kill has been to Target Field several times since he took over the Gophers program in 2011. He and Gardenhire have gotten to know each other over the past several years.

So after Gardenhire earned his 1,000th career win as a manager earlier this month, Kill sent the Twins skipper a gift. The Gophers coach gave Gardenhire 1,000 white golf tees, with each tee personalized to include the date — April 5, 2014 — of the 1,000th victory.

During the beginning of the Twins’ homestand, Gardenhire was given a custom-made cigar humidor, along with 1,000 cigars from players Joe Mauer and Glen Perkins.

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