DETROIT — Akil Baddoo was once a teammate of Brent Rooker. He was in the same lineup as Ryan Jeffers. Heck, for a handful of rehab games, he was on the same side as Nelson Cruz and Miguel Sano.
So how could he treat his friends like this?
"He's such a good kid. He deserves everything he's getting," Jeffers said Monday — before Baddoo victimized his former organization with two hits and four RBIs in the Twins' 15-6 victory at Comerica Park. "It's awesome to see him have the success that he's having. Hopefully, the next two games he doesn't have that same success, but I wish him all the best."
Safe to say, he had the same success in the first game of the series. Baddoo singled in the fifth inning, and in the ninth, clubbed a 91-mph mistake of a sinker in the middle of the plate to a spot in the Twins' bullpen, a grand slam and his second home run of the season.
His victim? Randy Dobnak. Yeah, they were both Cedar Rapids Kernels for most of 2017.
"I probably know the entire starting nine," said Baddoo, who homered Sunday against Cleveland on the first pitch he saw in the big leagues. "A lot of familiar faces. It was definitely good to see those guys.
"I'm just loving that all my hard work is finally paying off."
The Twins drafted Baddoo out of high school in 2016, a teenager from Georgia who seemed a little timid — except on the baseball field. But he suffered from arm injuries that cost him most of the 2019 season, and then 2020 was canceled in the minor leagues. So the Twins didn't know what they had last winter, and decided against putting him on their 40-man roster, thus subjecting him to the Rule 5 draft.
Too bad. The Tigers selected him, and the Twins forfeited his contract.
"I'm really happy for him. He seems like he's taken advantage of a nice opportunity that he's been given," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "You never want to lose good players, but we'll be following him.
Speaking of Jeffers, he had an intense night on Saturday, catching Jose Berrios and his potential no-hitter. Berrios eventually left after six innings, his no-hitter still intact, but the pressure remained on the catcher.
Not that he minded.
"It was awesome. If you like good-pitched baseball games, that was one for you," Jeffers said of Berrios' duel with Brewers righthander Corbin Burnes, who matched Berrios' six no-hit innings. "We've got some really good guys who can really match up well."
The best part for Jeffers was learning what Berrios was thinking about his accomplishment: Nothing.
"It cracks me up that Jose said he didn't know," Jeffers said. "I feel like every pitcher has that in the back of his mind" before every game. "But he was probably out there so locked in."
Jeffers also had a couple of at-bats during J.A. Happ's simulated game last Wednesday, and said the veteran lefthander, who missed the first two weeks of training camp after testing positive for COVID, is ready for his 2021 debut on Tuesday.
"He's sharp. He looked ready to go," Jeffers said. "Said his body felt great. I think he's going to go out there [Tuesday] and throw really, really well."
Arraez returns, and Buxton could as well
Luis Arraez, who left Monday's game because of intestinal discomfort, is back in the lineup and will play second base today, with Jorge Polanco moving to short and Andrelton Simmons sitting out.
Baldelli said center fielder Byron Buxton is feeling OK after two days battling the stomach flu and could sub in today.
J.A. Happ makes his debut for the Twins against Casey Mize.
Luis Arraez, 2B
Jorge Polanco, SS
Nelson Cruz, DH
Max Kepler, RF
Brent Rooker, LF
Jake Cave, CF
Miguel Sano, 1B
Willians Astudillo, 3B
Brent Jeffers, C
Starting pitcher: J.A. Happ
Niko Goodrum, LF
Willi Castro, SS
Miguel Cabrera, 1B
Jeimer Candelario, 3B
Wilson Ramos, DH
Robbie Grossman, RF
Jonathan Schoop, 2B
Grayson Greiner, C
JaCoby Jones, CF
Starting pitcher: Casey Mize