KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Twins have scoured the waiver wire, demoted and then promoted their spring training starters and generally looked everywhere for starting pitching. On Saturday, they will try a pitcher from someplace they have rarely looked before: their own Class AA team.
Felix Jorge, the 23-year-old Dominican righthander who first pitched in the organization when he was 17, will start the second game of a doubleheader with the Royals, making his major league debut without ever having thrown a pitch in Class AAA.
It’s believed that Jorge is the first Twins pitcher since Brad Thomas in 2001 to start a major league game out of AA. J.R. Graham started a game in 2015 before ever having played at Class AAA, but the Rule 5 pick had 14 major league games of relief experience at the time. And Johan Santana memorably jumped from Class A to the Twins in 2000, but he made a relief appearance before getting a start.
“Overall, we’re kind of protective of putting guys in that position unless we feel they have a chance to help us,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. But, he added, the Twins have contemplated this two-step promotion for Jorge, and for Chattanooga teammate Fernando Romero, for much of the season. Jorge’s apparent ability to keep his emotions in check finally convinced the Twins, Molitor said.
“He’s got a little bit of the Ervin [Santana] thing on the mound. Not to compare him to Ervin, but as far as calmness — it just seems like he’s out there having fun, doing something he always does,” Molitor said. “I don’t see him getting too worked up on the big stage for the first time. We’ll see if that continues.”
Well, he couldn’t contain his emotions when he called his mother back in the Dominican Republic, he said. “My mom was crying. I was crying. I called everybody that day,” Jorge said. “It was awesome.”
Jorge started the 2016 season at Class A Fort Myers, and his 1.55 ERA after 14 starts earned him a promotion to Chattanooga. He started there again this season, and posted a 3.26 ERA in his first 14 starts this year. With an April rainout forcing a makeup game Saturday, the Twins decided to take a chance on a young guy.
Pressly in, Busenitz out
Alan Busenitz has relatives in Kansas, so Friday night was a big ballpark reunion for his family, and a chance to see the 26-year-old pitch. And after contributing a season-high eight outs, Busenitz was enjoying being with his relatives in the hallway outside the Twins clubhouse.
Suddenly, a messenger told him Molitor wanted to see him. And when Busenitz returned, he had some news: I’m headed back to the minor leagues.
Having worked too hard to pitch in Saturday’s doubleheader, he was sent back to Class AAA Rochester after the game in order to bring back the fresh arm of righthander Ryan Pressly, returning for his third stint with the Twins this year.
Tough business. “He picked us up. He extended himself so we could try to put ourselves in a good position,” Molitor said. “Unfortunately, we’re going to turn around and send him down.”
Busenitz took it like a professional, and expressed his gratitude for his two weeks in the majors, when he posted a 2.08 ERA over six appearances. “They need arms. It’s not a big deal,” he said. And the postgame awkwardness? He even enjoyed that. “I had 12 or 13 people out there tonight, so it was fun. My dad had [seen him pitch], but not the others. So it was pretty sweet.”
• One day after his first outing since coming off the disabled list, righthander Phil Hughes showed no signs of the shoulder injury that sidelined him a month.
• Infielder Eduardo Escobar made his first career start as a cleanup hitter, a reflection of his recent hot stretch of hitting.