If the Twins rotation is going to take off in the next couple of weeks, it will have to happen with the kids.
Twins manager Paul Molitor announced Friday that lefthander Tommy Milone will be shifted to the bullpen and that righthander Alex Meyer will make a start Tuesday in Houston.
This comes on the heels of the club placing righthanders Ervin Santana and Kyle Gibson on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday. So that means that three-fifths of the Twins rotation has been replaced this week.
And the replacements are rookies Meyer and righthander Jose Berrios — and righthander Tyler Duffey, who has 62 innings in the majors.
“We’ve got openings, so they are going to get the ball,” Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said. “It’s not ideal. There’s no question you don’t expect to have that many injuries this soon in the season. They are getting an opportunity here, and we’ll see what they will respond like.
“It’s going to happen. It just happened all at once.”
Duffey will start Saturday against Detroit. Berrios, who gave up five runs over four innings in his major league debut on Wednesday, will start Monday in Houston. And Meyer will follow.
Meyer was called up Monday when the Twins bullpen was reeling from the 16-inning marathon in Washington on Sunday. He was available out of the bullpen, but he ended up not being needed.
The coaching staff began talking about giving Meyer a start. Meyer was a starter in the minors until last season, when he made 30 appearances out of the bullpen.
He posted a 1.04 ERA in three games, two of them starts, at Rochester this year, earning a call-up.
“I think the odds were high that he was going to get into a game this week, given how depleted we were,” Molitor said of Meyer.
“It’s kind of amazing it didn’t happen. He did have to get hot [warm up] a couple of those nights because there were extra-inning possibilities.”
The trio has a chance to make a couple of starts before players return from the disabled list. Santana will play catch Saturday to test his sore back to see if he can get on track to return to action Friday, when the Twins open a series in Chicago.
Gibson is eligible to be activated May 8, but Ryan said Friday that he might need more than 15 days.
Milone failed to get out of the fifth inning in three of his four starts. On Monday he gave up two runs over 4⅔ innings but on seven hits and two walks.
And he needed 98 pitches to do so.
Opponents are batting .194 against Milone the first time through the order, .333 the second time through and are 6-for-9 the third time through. Those numbers told the Twins to put Milone in the bullpen for now.
“The kind of stuff that he brings, he needs to be on with all his pitches,” Molitor said. “And it seems like after they see him a couple times around they start to make adjustments in terms of not expanding the zone, especially in terms of that changeup. He’s a valuable guy. It’s just that right now our team shapes up better putting him back out in the bullpen there for a while.”
Milone will be in a long-relief role for the time being. Of his 107 major league appearances, only five have been out of the bullpen.
Third baseman Trevor Plouffe (right intercostal strain) left the team Friday to head to Fort Myers, Fla., where he will play in two rehabilitation games with the Miracle. If all goes well, he will join the team in Houston for the series against the Astros on Monday.