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Lefty Logan Darnell is making his pitch

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One of the pitchers in the Minnesota Twins farm system that has begun to garner more attention is Logan Darnell. The 24-year-old left-hander was 6-6 with a 2.61 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP in 15 starts at New Britain this year. Last Thursday, he threw a complete game, four-hit shutout against the Erie SeaWolves. I have been occasionally getting questions about Darnell from readers, but following that start, there were a lot more questions. What does he throw? When will he get promoted? What is different than last year?

Looking back, there probably should be more excitement about Darnell than there has been. He was the team’s 6th round pick in 2010 out of the University of Kentucky. In his first full season, 2011, he pitched in Beloit and Ft. Myers before ending the year with five starts in New Britain. Guys that have pitched at three levels in a season, and the Twins have had many, typically get an opportunity in the big leagues.

Last year, he made 28 starts for the Rock Cats. He went just 11-12 with a 5.08 ERA, but as he was developing pitches, he also was able to throw 156 innings. He then went to the Arizona Fall League and did well.

This year, he has been very good, but he was also on a pace to throw nearly 180 innings. In nine of his last 11 starts with the Rock Cats, he threw at least six innings. The two times that he didn’t go six innings, he went 5.2 innings. While he has been more efficient with his pitches, his strikeout rate increased from 5.7 to 7.2 per nine innings. More people were beginning to take notice.

So, I started asking some questions. For instance, late last week, I asked Twins minor league director Brad Steil when Darnell could be promoted to AAA. He responded by saying, “he just needs to continue to be consistent and be ready when there’s an opportunity.”

On Sunday, a spot in the Rochester rotation opened up. Kyle Gibson was promoted to the big leagues, and Darnell was given (and had earned) a spot and an opportunity in the Rochester rotation.

Last night, he made his Rochester debut. Now, as you read in today’s minor league report, it didn’t go as planned. He gave up just one run, but he was only able to go 2.2 innings before leaving the game due to a blister.

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What has made him so successful this season? Steil has noticed a couple of things. “I think Logan is locating all of his pitches better and getting ahead. There’s also some confidence that comes with being in a league a second year. He uses all four of his pitches effectively, with the change probably being his best off-speed pitch.”

Darnell agreed on that pitch. The lefty said the biggest improvement he’s made since last year is “probably my changeup. I’ve had confidence to throw it in hitter’s counts, and it got better this year. I believe that consistency is a big thing. Always work on something to improve and not be satisfied because baseball can humble you fast.”

He also spoke of his Arizona Fall League experience. “The Fall League was great. I made a lot of good friends that are having success. But if I learned anything from it, it was to make it more about me and what I throw, more than about who is hitting. I spent a lot of time there working on my curveball, trying to throw a good one early in counts.”

Darnell throws a fastball that reaches into the low 90s. He has always had good breaking pitches, both a curveball and a slider. Darnell said when asked if he had an out pitch, “If I had to choose, it would be the slider. I definitely consider myself groundball pitcher, but with my changeup this year, it’s helped me be more diverse in how I throw.”

Hopefully Logan Darnell can quickly get back on the mound for Rochester and continue to make strides in the right direction. He is a guy who could be added to the 40 man roster at season’s end if he continues to pitch well. He is left-handed and projects as a back of the rotation type of starter. There’s value in a guy like the either as a starter or as a long reliever.
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