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Cruz was, as usual, held out of the first few games of Spring Training as he ramped up for the season on his own schedule. Wednesday marked a good time for his first game action with the club playing at home, and after grounding Wholesale Minnesota Twins Jerseys out to short in his first two at-bats, Cruz yanked the ball an estimated 390 feet over the fence in left-center.

“He’s done this before in the spring,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He almost comes in ready to go. A lot of guys, it takes a really extended period of time, a lot of at-bats, to get ready and to start to feel it, but not surprised to see Nellie line a ball over the fence right there. That’s just what he does.”

It took a while for Cruz and the Twins to agree on the one-year, $13 million deal that brought the designated hitter back to Minnesota for 2021, and after serving as the club’s most productive bat for two years, it didn’t take long for Cruz to show the Twins why it was important for them to bring him back.

Josh Donaldson was also absent from the Twins’ early spring contests alongside Cruz and has yet to appear in a game as Minnesota eases the 2015 American League MVP Award winner into action to help keep his calves healthy. Andrelton Simmons is the only other Twins regular who hasn’t yet seen action, due to his visa issues in leaving his native Curaçao for Spring Training.

Triple-A Saints’ season to be delayed
It’ll take a bit longer than expected for the St. Paul Saints to play their first game of affiliated ball.

The Saints announced Tuesday night that the start to their inaugural season in Triple-A ball will be postponed to May 4, in line with the league-wide delay. Their season will be shortened from 142 games to 120, with the format of the schedule remaining largely the same, featuring off-days on Mondays and six-game series from Tuesdays to Sundays.

The Saints’ home opener will now be May 11, with an even split between 60 home games and 60 road games.

CHS Field will reprise its role as the Twins’ alternate training site and will house the club’s taxi squad until the Triple-A season gets underway.

“While we are eager to begin our first year as the Twins’ Triple-A affiliate, we understand and appreciate what Major League Baseball is doing by delaying the start of our season by a month,” Saints general manager Derek Sharrer said in a statement. “We look forward to working with the Twins as their alternate training site in April as we prepare to safely host fans when our 2021 season begins in May.”

Fans in the regular season?
There’s still no clarity on whether the Twins will allow fans into Target Field during the regular season, but club president Dave St. Peter said on the broadcast of Wednesday’s game that the organization hopes to soon re-engage with the office of Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz regarding a proposal for a limited allotment of just over 10,000 fans per home game (around 26 percent of the stadium’s capacity) starting as soon as Opening Day.

“We think we can do that safely,” St. Peter said. “We think we can do it starting on Opening Day, April 8. Ultimately, we need the high sign from the Department of Health as to whether that’s possible, and we’re hoping to get that soon. … We actually think that Twins baseball can play a really important role in getting our downtown back moving.”

Around the horn
• Minor League infielder Chris Williams was removed from the Twins’ 75-man player pool due to a separated left shoulder sustained in a collision at first base with the Braves’ Austin Riley in the club’s 6-0 loss to Atlanta on Tuesday. He was replaced on the roster by infielder Spencer Steer, the Twins’ third-round selection from the 2019 Draft.

• Another of Minnesota’s three homers was a solo blast by Kyle Garlick that traveled an estimated 390 feet to right-center field, his second of the spring. Garlick was added to the roster on a waiver claim from the Braves in February, and he also went deep on Monday against the Rays. Mitch Garver also crushed his first homer of the spring in the first inning.

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