Report from The Fort: Lewis Thorpe’s Hype Train Stays on Track
Image courtesy of © Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY SportsLewis Thorpe
Thorpe didn’t have the cleanest first inning – he walked his first batter and hit another in the head - but the pitches that we’ve heard about this spring were all on display. Most noticeably, the velocity that had deserted him last year has returned, as he was consistently throwing his fastball at least 90 mph, reaching 93 mph on occasion. Asked about the variation, he explained “Sometimes I just try to groove [the slower version] in there and if I really want to let one rip, the 93 is in the back of the tank somewhere.”
His offspeed stuff was similarly impressive. He relied several times on a mid-70s curveball that he threw as a first-pitch-looking strikes to batters. His slider was a little less reliable, but good enough to strikeout the last batter he faced in an efficient second inning. He finished with two strikeouts and no runs over two innings.
He even made a couple of plays in the field, including tangoing with catcher Ryan Jeffers on a high pop fly that came down two feet in front of home plate. Jeffers ended up on the ground, but on his way there, he watched Thorpe catch the ball over Jeffers’ shoulder.
It was another encouraging step for the Thorpe. The southpaw still has an uphill climb to the majors as a member of the rotation. He’s certainly behind the five veterans in camp, and maybe also be behind Randy Dobnak and Devin Smeltzer. But it’s clear the team is gaining confidence in him.
As is Thorpe. “It's fantastic,” he exclaimed after. “To come back with the way I'm throwing the ball right now, it's such a positive leading up to my first outing after that live BP. To be able to pound the zone and get some swings and misses, and know my stuff belongs here, it's a relief, that's for sure.”
Luis Arraez not only made his debut, but also hit lead off, lacing a line drive off of Rays’ starter Tyler Glasnow, he of the 97 mph fastball. That drive found a diving center fielder’s glove, but Arraez had an even more impressive at-bat in the second inning.
Glasnow was clearly tiring, but the bases were loaded with two outs. Arraez fell behind in the count 0-2 on two foul balls, but worked the count back to 3-2 and three pitches later worked a walk to give the Twins a 2-0 lead. He was the last batter Glasnow faced.
What was striking about the at-bat is there was never a point, even down 0-2, that it felt like Arraez was in any kind of trouble. “Luis is not intimidated by really anyone,” mused manager Rocco Baldelli after the game.
Arraez also made a great running catch ranging into right field, but it left his manager holding his breath:
Rooker started in left field and batted cleanup. Last year, his season ended shortly after he was called up to the Twins last when he suffered a broken arm after being hit by a pitch. With the Twins having an abundance of left-handed hitting corner outfielders, the right-handed hitting Rooker looks like a valuable piece to have on the 26-man roster this year.
He certainly didn’t show any ill effects from the injury in his first at-bat of the season. Facing Glasnow he drilled a home run to right-center field to give the Twins and early 1-0 lead.
Odd and Ends
Or should I say “an odd end?” We had heard all games would be seven innings, but following the fifth inning, an announcement was made that the game would only be one more inning long. So we got a six inning game.
The Rays’ stadium was practicing the same type of pandemic crowd control that Hammond Stadium did on Sunday, but the American League’s defending champs’ crowd was so light, there was little reason for concern. Seats were spread out, and I never say any line at a concession stand or for the restroom. There was plenty of distance between the fans.
Tuesday the Twins will be playing the Braves on the road, and if you would like to follow along, follow @TwinsDaily on Twitter.
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