Caleb Thielbar’s rise from the small town of Randolph, Minn., to the St. Paul Saints to the Minnesota Twins is one of the better local stories of the past several years. Thielbar, a left-handed pitcher, was with the Saints in 2011 and caught the Twins’ eye. By 2013, he was in the big leagues — posting a 1.76 ERA in 49 appearances and allowing just 24 hits in 46 innings. He followed that up with a decent showing in 2014 (3.40 ERA in 54 games with the Twins), but in 2015 he lost a little sharpness and velocity.
Just like that, Thielbar was a man looking for a job this past offseason. And the only team that stepped up with any kind of concrete offer was the Saints. So Thielbar is back living in Randolph and trying to rekindle the same magic that worked five years ago. We chatted on the phone Thursday morning, and it was probably the first time I’ve ever talked to an athlete while he was fishing. Thielbar even caught one during the course of our 10-minute conversation, all the while with his trusty black lab by his side.
He said his velocity is back where he wants it to be — consistently 90 or 91 miles per hour, with an occasional 92 mixed in — leaving him optimistic that another major league opportunity could come his way. For now, though, he’s content with the Saints — adding that playing there the first time was among his most enjoyable experiences in his playing history. He pitched one inning and allowed two runs Thursday in their season-opening victory.
Most of the Q&A will be published in Sunday’s print edition, but I thought his answer to a question about his former team was particularly relevant given their 10-30 record. While Thielbar readily notes that he’s not around the clubhouse anymore, it’s also noteworthy that he’s under no obligation to support his former organization. Still, he said this:
Q Watching from a distance, but still a not too far away distance, how much of a surprise is this start by the Twins?
A Oh, I don’t know. They’re still young. The reality is a lot of the guys they’re going to be counting on in the next couple of years are still in their first or second years. They say it takes, what, 1,000 at-bats before you become the hitter you’re going to be. They’re nowhere near that. It’s just going to take time. They have a lot of young arms in the system, too. They’re going to be just fine. I know fans get impatient, but it’s a process.