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Twins top prospect sent to St. Paul to start season

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Brooks Lee, the Twins' top infield prospect, made a big impression on the team's coaching staff over the past six weeks, Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. But he still will start the season in the minor leagues.

Lee, a 23-year-old switch hitter drafted eighth overall in 2022, was reassigned to minor league camp on Friday, one of the last players to be cut despite having only 38 games of Class AAA experience. That's because he collected 12 hits in 36 at-bats during Grapefruit League play, including five doubles, a triple and a home run with only five strikeouts.

"He had better than a good camp — he had a great camp," Baldelli said. "For people who haven't seen him play a lot firsthand, he showed us a lot at shortstop. He showed us he can move around the field with ease. He had some good offensive days, and he handled being a young player in camp just the way you would want to see a guy do it."

Lee exited Thursday's game against the Nationals after one inning due to a back spasm. He was scheduled to undergo testing Friday, which could put him on the St. Paul Saints' injured list to begin the season.

Rated as a consensus top-100 prospect, Lee gives the Twins minor-league depth all around their infield. He's currently blocked from the major league infield with Carlos Correa at shortstop, Royce Lewis at third base and Edouard Julien at second base, but he's in line to make his debut this summer.

"He's levelheaded, and he's got a good way about him," Baldelli said. "He's got a good baseball mind."

Finally, some rain

The Twins were scheduled to play two games on Friday, a home game against the Braves (the Twins' third time facing starter Spencer Strider, who has yet to allow a run in 18⅔ innings this spring) and a split-squad road game against the Rays. But a thunderstorm enveloped Florida's Gulf Coast all morning, and both games were canceled.

The rainout erased the Twins' plans to give Pablo López an extra day off before his Opening Day start in Kansas City next Thursday. Instead, the righthander will face the Worcester Red Sox, Boston's Class AAA affiliate, on a back field at the Twins' complex — assuming the rain has stopped by then.

"If the minor league game gets canceled because the field is still soggy, he will face hitters here, just not in a game," Baldelli said. "We'd much prefer him to pitch with the extra day if possible, but the weather is not cooperating. He does want to face hitters in one form or another."

López has gradually increased his pitch count throughout the spring, and last week, he threw 73 pitches against the Rays, albeit while allowing four runs in five innings. With the regular season now so close, he may throw fewer pitches in his spring finale, but López has assured the Twins he feels at full strength. But he would like to sharpen his command of his pitches one more time before the games count.

Neighborhood move

Packing for the move north has commenced in the Twins' clubhouse, with players filling boxes with extra equipment for loading onto the team's trucks headed for Minneapolis.

Teaming with St. Paul as the team's Class AAA affiliate gives the Twins extra time to consider any final roster decisions; when their top minor league team was in Rochester, N.Y., the Twins informed players who would not make the major league team of their status a week in advance.

Now, both Twins and Saints players know they will be living in the Twin Cities, so those decisions can wait. Still, most (if not all) players will know by this weekend where they will start the season.