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How the Twins’ summer sausage celebration got made: It sparked the offense, but should they eat it?

CHICAGO — With Abe Froman unavailable, I called sausage expert Elias Cairo to address Rocco Baldelli’s concerns about a potentially hazardous pre-encased meat currently residing in the Minnesota Twins clubhouse.

Nearly a week after it arrived and with the package showing visible signs of wear, tear and condensation, the sixth-year Twins manager suggested he’s worried about what happens if and when the plastic protectant surrounding a pre-cooked summer sausage, which the Twins have spent the past week touching and throwing in celebration of an offensive awakening, eventually rips open.

During an interview on Sunday morning, Baldelli stated his belief that such an occurrence would be bad for whichever of his players or coaches were holding the package. Despite opening a three-game series on the South Side on Monday night, we couldn’t get a hold of Froman, the “Sausage King of Chicago.” But Cairo, a charcutier who operates four restaurants in Oregon as well as Olympia Provisions and a 58,000-square-foot warehouse loaded with cured meats, downplayed Baldelli’s concerns about sausage safety.

“I’d eat it,” Cairo said with a laugh. “In theory, charcuterie, the whole thing is to prolong the shelf life of a product, and the summer sausage is the ultimate product. It’s all science-based. … For something to reach shelf stability, it means it cannot go bad. It would just lose its quality and oxidize. It would start tasting a little off, but it’s to a point where no pathogens should grow in there.”

Five days into the sausage saga, Baldelli is envisioning hazmat suits and a potential EPA Superfund site.

The Twins originally brought the Cloverdale Original Tangy Summer Sausage into their dugout in the middle of last Thursday’s game at a time when they couldn’t muster much offense against struggling Chicago White Sox starter Michael Soroka.

With the sausage in tow, the Twins’ bats suddenly woke up.

The Twins belted five home runs in a span of 16 batters and went on to win their fourth straight game, which prompted hitting coach David Popkins to give the sausage to catcher Ryan Jeffers, who volunteered to transport the encased meat across the country to Anaheim, Calif.

A Twins offense that was dormant for the first 20 games of the season continued to explode, producing 32 runs in a three-game sweep of the Los Angeles Angels. During the series, cameras caught players touching the sausage for luck before at-bats and including it in home run celebrations, particularly following Carlos Santana’s round-tripper early in Saturday’s blowout victory.

Ever the superstitious sport, Twins players continue to keep the sausage around, despite it not being refrigerated. And therein lies Baldelli’s concern that his clubhouse could become ground zero for an infectious disease.

“I could just look at it and feel it and know it’s disgusting and that you could definitely get sick if that thing opened up,” Baldelli said. “It’s in the package, but it’s not vacuum-sealed. … It’s in Pop’s locker right now. If that thing just opened up, I might just throw up. That’s how gross it is.”

Baldelli relayed his concerns during a pregame interview Sunday, suggesting whatever player or coach was near the package when it opened was in “deep trouble.” He’d reviewed the package sometime Saturday and begun to worry.

Two days later, and after the sausage made its way back across the country in a Ziploc bag inside Jeffers’ shoe, the package was in worse shape. The team already has plans to eventually replace the sausage once its winning streak ends. (There’s talk of perhaps a Sheboygan two-foot sausage.)

The problem is the Twins are hitting for the first time all season long. Throughout a 7-13 start, the Twins’ offense was abysmal, hitting .195/.281/.329 and scoring 3.7 runs per game.

During their seven-game winning streak, the Twins scored 8.1 runs a game and hit .348/.406/.602.

Fresh off the injured list, shortstop Carlos Correa was excited to get in on the team’s sausage fest.

“We’ve got a sausage now and all that,” Correa said. “I need to get me some of that. It’s very weird, very gross, but at the same time, it’s working so we’ll stick with it.”

Baldelli is decidedly hands-off when it comes to the sausage. He wants no part of it and won’t advise the players how to properly store it.

Jeffers, who hit the game-tying home run in Thursday’s victory over the Chicago White Sox, also downplayed the concerns, noting the packaging wasn’t wet and players weren’t “tossing around raw meat.”

Still, Jeffers knows he must be vigilant.

“Eventually, we’ll have to switch the sausage out in order to avoid the health department knocking our door down,” Jeffers said. “(Baldelli) doesn’t want another epidemic. He doesn’t want another COVID-19 epidemic from our sausage. We don’t want the Minnesota Twins’ sausage to start another worldwide crisis. So we’ll see. It’s fun. It’s fun.”

If there were a health crisis associated, “Patient Zero” would be veteran infielder Kyle Farmer. He’s the player who brought the package to the ballpark last week after Cloverdale sent it to him. Farmer and his family participated in a Cloverdale advertisement last season and the company sent him a thank-you package.

“I was just hoping someone was going to take it home to go eat,” Farmer said. “I didn’t know it was going to end up in the dugout, people slapping sausage. … Never thought you’d have deli meats being thrown at people’s faces.”

One expert is siding with Baldelli given how the sausage has been handled.

Bob Komanetsky, the manager of Bolyard’s Meat and Provisions in St. Louis, also wonders about how the packaging is holding up after it’s spent the better part of five days in a dugout, and how that might affect the water activity.

“I wouldn’t eat it,” Komanetsky said. “That takes a chemical analysis to do that. Most summer sausage is not dried. It’s gotta be smoked. If it’s hermetically sealed, it maybe has a shelf life. But I always err on the side of I’m not eating that if it’s not cold.”

Still, Cairo, a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, vouched for the sausage as long as the packaging is intact. He completed a chef apprenticeship after spending five years in Switzerland studying under master chef Annegret Schlumpf. He’s a big believer in shelf-stable products.

“The only thing that could ever happen is if it’s in a dugout in summer — and we’re talking August in Arizona — and it gets really, really hot, it’s going to get greasy and won’t be as palatable or as delicious,” Cairo said.

As grossed out as he is, Baldelli doesn’t seem too concerned. The Twins plan to throw out the current sausage as soon as they lose and will replace it with another once they return home.

For now, all Baldelli cares about is that his team is thinking about sausage and not bad batting averages.

“That’s what you’re looking for,” Baldelli said. “Playing great and thinking about nothing, except apparently a sausage.”

(Photo of Carlos Santana catching the summer sausage from Ryan Jeffers after a home run: John Cordes / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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