Major League Baseball announced on Monday that due to the coronavirus pandemic, the beginning of the 2020 season will be suspended at least two months.
For all teams, a significant delay that could stretch even further into the summer will have shockwaves. For the Twins, who currently have intentions of competing for an American League pennant, that delay could have even greater ramifications.
Byron Buxton will be ready for opening day
When the Twins were shut down for the foreseeable future, Buxton was starting to ramp things up by taking batting practice. With his availability for the original opening day in limbo, Buxton looked good and didn't report any setbacks.
The Twins have left Fort Myers after the season delay was announced, but this gives Buxton an extra couple months to get back to 100 percent. This was the Twins' original goal and other players, such as Marwin Gonzalez (knee surgery), also have extra time.
The pitching situation will be much different
As the Twins were ramping up for the regular season, they knew they would have two temporary holes with Rich Hill (elbow surgery) and Michael Pineda (suspension).
Although the battle for the fifth starting spot seemed to be Randy Dobnak's to lose, there's a chance that the fill-in duty may not be needed if Hill continues to recover without setbacks.
A rotation of Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi, Kenta Maeda, Homer Bailey, and Rich Hill is what the Twins have been banking on all along, but they may also have to wait later to add Pineda to that list with 39 games remaining on his PED violation stemming from last season.
Such a situation would give the Twins less time to evaluate their rotation at full strength. If the trade deadline isn't pushed back, that could also lead to Minnesota making a decision to add or not add a starter much sooner than they had hoped.
The Twins may have to go back for more "spring training"
Just as the opening day announcement came down, the Twins were just about ready for the season to begin. Pitchers were starting to increase their workload, position players were in shape and all that needed to be done was for the first pitch to be thrown.
Instead, most teams were sent home from their facility as the coronavirus spread. Without a facility or certain plan, ESPN's Buster Olney mentioned that going back for additional spring training may be required if the delay is long enough.
"There are folks at the team level who think that a return in June might be possible but, in the end, may be an optimistic projection," Olney said. "Players would need at least two to three weeks after that to prepare for the start of a truncated season, which backs us up into June. And, of course, the rapidly changing circumstances will continue to dictate the context for any decision."
In other words, when the Twins do gather to officially start the season, they'll be back to square one.
The Twins' championship window got shorter
Obviously, the coronavirus pandemic is bigger than baseball. However, the Twins finally made moves to "go for it" this offseason and as a result, have a team with several key players on the wrong side of 30.
Josh Donaldson (34 years old) signed the largest free-agent contract in franchise history and home run leader Nelson Cruz (40) also isn't getting younger. With Kenta Maeda (32) and Hill (40) getting up there on the mound, the Twins are built to win right now.
If baseball isn't played until June, the Twins won't have the luxury of having ups and downs like they did last year. That could increase the pressure on a team expected to make a playoff run and could bring a much different result in 2020.