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A spot start a long time in the works: Why Louie Varland started for the Twins on Tuesday

On a slow day during the offseason, Rocco Baldelli might peak at the upcoming season’s schedule and take note of lengthy stretches of games.

“I’ve done that before and I’m like, ‘That’s a long stretch, that’s a long stretch, that’s a long stretch,’” Baldelli said. “Six months from now, maybe we’re talking about sticking someone in there and letting them pitch.”

That’s exactly what the Twins did on Tuesday, and that’s exactly why Louie Varland got the call from Triple-A. The Twins are in the middle of 13 games in as many days, and they wanted to give their starting staff a breather.

To do so, they inserted Varland in to make a start.

While it might be something he looks at far in advance, a serious discussion about calling up a spot starter usually comes a couple weeks out, Baldelli said. And though the Twins have the plans in the works, the starter himself may not even know until a couple of days before.

“These guys don’t need more heads up than that. It’s actually not beneficial,” Baldelli said. “There’s too many different things that can change if you start talking about these things too early, and you don’t want to necessarily always tell them just the day before.”

And so why now, as opposed to other long stretches without a break this season?

“We’re always going to have 13-game stretches. That’s what the baseball calendar looks like. You’re going to have a good handful of them over the course of the year,” Baldelli said. “You’re going to pick those types of stretches to normally insert a starter. It’s not like this is by far the best time to do it. It’s a good time to do it.”

Margot heats up

June has historically been Manuel Margot’s most productive month, so perhaps it’s not surprising that the outfielder has started to heat up after a slow start to the season.

“Whenever I get the opportunity to be out there, I just try to do my best,” Margot said through interpreter Mauricio Ortiz. “Whatever happened the first two months, I just turn the page, and I’m doing what I do right now.”

Margot hit .204 with a .528 OPS through the first couple of months. He had just four extra-base hits — three doubles and a home run.

In his first seven games of June coming into Tuesday, Margot was hitting .429 with a .500 on-base percentage and 1.214 OPS. He had six hits, including a pair of doubles and a triple.

“Even when some of the surface line numbers you’re looking at haven’t caught up to the at-bats, we’re still noticing that the at-bats are good,” Baldelli said. “He’s hitting balls good. He’s shooting hard line drives all around the field. … He has had really good at-bats, and he’s earning some opportunities.”

Briefly

To make room on the roster for Varland, the Twins sent Diego Castillo to Triple-A. The Twins are likely to option Varland and recall another reliever … Pablo López is lined up to face Colorado left-hander Austin Gomber in the series finale at Target Field on Wednesday afternoon.

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