He left a fastball to the Nationals’ Bryce Harper at the knees. His heater to Cleveland’s Mike Napoli was shoulder-high. Kevin Jepsen learned a valuable lesson in his past two save opportunities: Beware of throwing the ball high. Or low.
“I’m almost thinking maybe down the middle would work,” Jepsen said with a smile and a shrug. “I threw one down the middle to [Michael] Brantley and he hit it at Joe [Mauer].”
It’s been that kind of stretch for the Twins’ interim closer, who has three losses and three blown saves (in five opportunities) during an unusually eventful April. Jepsen insists he’s throwing as well as ever but has been victimized by a couple of bad pitches.
“Usually, if I’m going through a rough stretch, I’m walking guys, and then one hit scores runs,” said Jepsen, who inherited the closer job when Glen Perkins went on the disabled list two weeks ago. “But I feel great. It’s one of those things where it’s more frustrating” than worrisome, he said.
Manager Paul Molitor seems to agree, because he said he hasn’t even considered moving the 31-year-old out of that role. He even met with Jepsen following Tuesday’s blown save, in which Napoli tied the score with an upper-deck blast in the ninth inning, to reiterate that support.
“You talk about the games that haven’t gone his way, whether it’s been one pitch or one call or one play — it’s been a really fine line,” Molitor said. “And that’s all it takes to blow a save every now and then.”
Ryan Pressly has 14 strikeouts in 14 ⅓ innings, and Trevor May has 18 whiffs in 11 ⅓ innings. But Molitor said he’s not shuffling his bullpen just because of a couple of home runs, one of them to NL MVP Harper last Sunday.
“I don’t have any other plans,” he emphasized. “Pressly’s outings have been impressive all year. But I’m sticking with Kevin.”
Back at third … for now
Molitor said he didn’t want to give Miguel Sano a new role, either, but felt he had no choice “just out of common sense.” So after resisting the urge to play Sano at third base for a week after Trevor Plouffe went on the disabled list April 19, he finally called the newly minted outfielder into his office during last week’s road trip to Washington and asked him his opinion about temporarily moving.
“He got that big ‘Miggy’ smile, said he was ready, tells me he loves third base,” Molitor said. “I think he misses being an infielder — it’s what he’s done his whole life.”
That doesn’t mean the change is permanent, though. When Plouffe comes back next week, Molitor said Sano understands the veteran will remain the starter at third.
• Plouffe, healthy again 10 days after suffering an intercostal muscle strain, will play rehab games with the Class A Fort Myers Miracle on Saturday and Sunday, then meet the Twins in Houston, General Manager Terry Ryan said. Plouffe is eligible to be reinstated Tuesday.
• With Jose Berrios, Alex Meyer and Tyler Duffey all in the majors, the Twins urgently needed more starting pitching at Class AAA Rochester. They addressed that need by signing former Twin Andrew Albers, a lefthander who won his first two big-league games without allowing a run in 2013. Andrews had been pitching for Lancaster in the independent Atlantic League.
• The Twins haven’t named a starting pitcher for Sunday, though both Tommy Milone and Ricky Nolasco would be on sufficient rest. “Our rotation is a little bit in flux, to say the least,” Molitor said, “with a couple of guys on the [disabled list] and some other things we’re considering.”