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After reworking mechanics, Woods Richardson gets to show Twins new look

DETROIT — When Austin Martin and Simeon Woods Richardson got traded to the Twins organization in 2021 for all-star starter José Berríos, the duo wanted to make sure they could do everything in their power to hold up their end of the trade.

“We’re like, ‘OK, let’s prove to them why we’re here. Let’s prove to them why they got who they traded for,’ ” Woods Richardson recalled.

They were roommates once upon a time, talking about how they could improve and how they could motivate each other to reach the next level. Saturday, the two will finally be teammates at the major league level — at least for a day.

Martin made his major league debut early this season, and Woods Richardson will be recalled as the 27th man to start the second game of the Twins’ doubleheader against the Tigers.

Woods Richardson ran into some trouble in his start last time out with the Triple-A Saints, but the Twins liked what they saw from the starter this spring after he lowered his arm slot, which led to an uptick in his velocity.

“I think it was a collective whole as an organization. We kind of just sat down, kind of met in the middle, said, ‘OK, I want to change, you want to see change. Let’s always try to find ways to get better,’” Woods Richardson said. “Trying and figuring out what I was doing in 2018, 2019, going back into the past a little bit to see. It’s kind of what we came up with.”

It was something suggested to him near the end of last season that he brought into the offseason. He reported to Fort Myers, Fla., in January, ready to work. Getting comfortable with that arm slot, he said, was a process. But he used to be an infielder throwing from lower down, so it wasn’t too difficult of an adjustment.

“It’s just muscle memory,” Woods Richardson said. “Once you create the muscle memory, it goes from there.”

Saturday will mark the third major league game for Woods Richardson, who debuted in 2022 in Detroit and pitched once for the Twins last year in long relief. He spent most of the season in Triple-A, where he posted a 4.91 earned-run average.

But the Twins have seen some encouraging signs from the pitcher, who was a second-round pick in 2018 and is just 23, and he could provide important rotation depth for them this season.

“I did watch him pretty closely in spring training, so I saw a lot early on this year and his stuff is up, and he has looked generally pretty good,” manager Rocco Baldelli said.

Injury updates

Closer Jhoan Duran, on the injured list with an oblique strain, joined his teammates on the road trip so Twins coaches and trainers could monitor both his mechanics and health as he starts to ramp up his activity.

Friday, the reliever threw his first bullpen since straining his oblique in March. It was a 23-pitch session in which he used all of his pitches. He said he came out of it feeling great and plans to throw again Tuesday in Baltimore.

“It’s been a long time not being there for me,” Duran said. “I’m feeling so excited to be there.”

Back in Minnesota, Caleb Thielbar (hamstring) threw two innings on Thursday in a rehab game with the Saints, and Baldelli said pitching coach Pete Maki wanted to consult with Thielbar to determine his next steps, which could include another rehab outing or just joining the major league club.

Bingo night

A rainout on Thursday meant the Twins had more time for their evening activity: bingo night. Ace Pablo López planned and hosted the event at the team hotel, catering food and the open bar for the entire Twins traveling party.

“It was a lot of fun. He had his table, it was all set up in the front and he had the mic ready to go,” Baldelli said. “It’s like he has done this before. I feel like he’s done this before. That’s how well it went, but the guys had a blast and a good way to get the whole team together.”

Baldelli was one of the night’s winners, along with Duran, catcher Christian Vázquez, starter Chris Paddack, Bally Sports North reporter Audra Martin, assistant pitching coach Luis Ramirez and assistant trainer Jason Kirkman.

And how was López as a host?

“Pablo’s got a tremendous, soothing, just golden-velvety voice,” Baldelli said.

Familiar face

The Twins will see a familiar face Saturday, set to square off against Kenta Maeda in the first game of the doubleheader. Maeda spent four seasons with the Twins before signing a two-year pact with the Tigers this offseason.

Maeda gave up six runs in his first start and sports at 9.00 ERA through two outings, but the Twins are well aware of how tough he can be.

“We have to attack him the way we would attack any other pitcher,” Baldelli said. “We do know the way he normally pitches, but it doesn’t really make it easier because he’s really good at what he does.”

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