Report From The Fort: Mejia Makes His Case
Image courtesy of Seth Stohs, Twins Daily (photo of Adalberto Mejia)Mejia came to the Twins last July from the Giants in exchange for Eduardo Nunez. He made one relief appearance for the Twins in 2016. He came to spring training as a long shot to make the Twins Opening Day roster, rarely mentioned when fifth-starter options were mentioned. Coming into Wednesday, his first spring start, he worked 6.2 innings over four relief appearances. He’d pitched fairly well, giving up just one run despite five hits and three walks. And, he had struck out only three.
The Twins had Tyler Duffey start a minor league game on a back field on Wednesday (more on that later), giving Mejia an opportunity to start at Hammond Stadium against the Cardinals. Despite traveling across the state, the Cardinals brought big leaguers Kolten Wong, Randal Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty, Matt Adams, Tommy Pham and 2016 All Star Aledmys Diaz. In other words, it was a good challenge for the southpaw.
Mejia did give up four hits in 3.2 innings of work, but he showed an ability to dominate. He recorded 11 outs, and eight of them came via the strikeout.
Mejia said after the game that he threw his “fastball, slider and sinker… and change up.”
He came into the game hoping to work all of his pitches. “Obviously I was throwing what the catcher was asking. He’s a veteran. He knows what he’s doing. There were some things I was working on things like taking some speed off of the slider, or taking some speed off of the changeup.”
Mejia noted that he throws his slider anywhere from 81 to 87, which can really been beneficial for him.
His manager was impressed with the outing. “He’s getting a chance to get extended. I think he realizes we’re trying to get a good look at him, see where he’s at. He’s a different pitcher than the brief look we got at him last year in terms of what he can do with the baseball. Other than the numbers, in an outing like today you look at how he’s handling situations and his, what looks to be a really good idea, what he wants to do with each and every hitter, and he’s executing pitches. It was a good outing. He had some traffic there in a couple of innings and found a way to get off the field including the long battle that ended with the one strikeout. It was solid. Threw strikes. Changeup is very effective. I like that he can change arm angles to give hitters a different look. There’s a lot of good things there.”
Tyler Duffey pitched for the AAA Rochester team against the AAA Norfolk team, the affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles. He looked strong the first couple of innings. In one inning, he gave up a couple of line drive hits, all over the field. In total, he gave up three runs on three hits and two walks in three-plus innings. He struck out two.
Molitor was in the Red Wings dugout for Duffey’s performance. “Duffey had a good day over there too, I thought. He ran into trouble in one inning over there when he couldn’t get off the field with two outs.”
photo by Seth Stohs
Following Justin Haley’s start on Monday at Hammond Stadium, Molitor indicated that he would like to see Haley get extended some. Ryan Vogelsong is still in the equation as well.
Molitor noted after the game, “There were other people that have been in the mix since the beginning that we haven’t excluded yet. We’ve got a little bit of time with the absence of Hector (Santiago) and Ervin (Santana) that the innings are available to keep getting looks at people, those guys or Vogelsong. So we’re still watching.”
As for Mejia, he’s not trying to do too much. “I just kept thinking, throw strikes, throw strikes. There’s nothing else you can do out there on the mound. If you keep thinking about other things like what am I going to do differently that’s when you mess up. So I just went out there and kept throwing strikes.” He later added, “I’m not thinking. I’m just trying to go out there and do my job and trying to do what they ask me to do.”
Molitor insists that the fifth start job is still an open competition. “We were open-minded. I think the message in camp early was that we feel there is a lot of competition here, a lot of people in the mix. I was kind of looking foward to see what he could do. So far he’s done a nice job.”
Mejia is just going to keep working and let the chips fall where they may. “I just want to help the team. That’s the goal, to be on the big club and help the team win. I’m just throwing pitches, learning from all the people here, learning from the veterans and people who have been in the position I’m in. I throw strikes and whatever happens happens. Today was a good day.”
BULLPEN LINES UP
Jake Reed struck out the one batter he faced to end the fourth inning. Then the Twins rolled out five relievers that could (maybe should) all be on the Opening Day roster. Brandon Kintzler, Craig Breslow, Ryan Pressly, Matt Belisle and Taylor Rogers combined for five shutout innings. They combined to give up just one hit, walked one and struck out three. Belisle struck out two in his inning.
Molitor went with a lineup combination that we haven’t yet seen, and we’ll likely see more combinations as spring winds down. “There are some combinations that I want to look at. When you’re not having your guys play together very often, you don’t get a lot of opportunities to do that. Today was a day I thought we’d change it up and see what it looked like and how it would play out. Potentially you’ve got a couple of guys that aren’t here that might be in the mix too.”
The Twins came through with eight runs in the game. In the third inning, Byungho Park and Jason Castro hit singles which were followed by a Jorge Polanco walk. Joe Mauer came up and hit a bases-loaded double to score two runners. A Brian Dozier ground out scored the third run of the inning. Max Kepler doubled to right-center, though Mauer was only able to advance to third base because the ball bounced off the tip of the center fielder’s glove and probably should have been caught. Mauer was tagging up to get to third base. Buxton walked before the final out was made. It was a nice inning
Molitor said “Buxton’s been a one or nine guy for us. To try to get him some bats in the middle of the lineup. With Joe, we tried that last year a little bit leading off. You might see a couple more combinations going forward."
photo by Seth Stohs
The Twins added another run in the fifth. Joe Mauer led off with a single up the middle. After Brian Dozier and Max Kepler flew out, Miguel Sano walked. Byron Buxton doubled to left to score Mauer.
For what it’s worth, Mauer was 2-3 with the two-run double. Buxton was 1-2 with a walk and an RBI double. For today, the lineup worked.
The Twins scored another four runs in the 7th inning, though it was the backups that created that offense. Ehire Adrianza walked and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Daniel Palka then walked. Eduardo Escobar singled in Adriana. After a fly out, Zack Granite walked. Matt Hague singled in a run. Chris Gimenez singled to score two more runs.
The Twins are on the next couple of days. Tomorrow they go to Jupiter tomorrow to play the Cardinals again. Then on Friday they will go to Bradenton to take on the Rays.
Asked if there could be more roster moves coming in the near future, Molitor noted that with the two road games. “There might be some more movement here by the end of the week.”
Feel free to discuss.
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