If you woke up Thursday morning excited about the Twins’ four-game winning streak and sudden re-emergence in the AL Wild Card race (they’re just 1.5 games back of Seattle for the final spot, with Kansas City and Tampa Bay in between those two), you naturally might have checked next to see who is pitching for the Twins as they go for a four-game, home-and-away sweep of the Brewers on Thursday night in Milwaukee and a season-high five-game winning streak.
You would have then seen the name “Dietrich Enns,” and if you hadn’t been paying very close attention to the events of the past couple weeks you might have said, “Wait, who?”
So let’s get caught up to speed with five things you need to know about Enns:
1) He’s a 26-year-old lefthander, he is set to make his MLB debut and he was acquired less than two weeks ago as one of two prospects obtained from the Yankees in the Jaime Garcia trade. (The other, 21-year-old righthander Zack Littell, has gone 15-1 this season between Class A and Class AA). What’s interesting is that if Enns pitches well and ends up contributing down the stretch, the strange sequence of deals involving Garcia — acquired by the Twins from the Braves, made one start, then Minnesota slumped and dumped him to the Yankees while still taking on his salary — might end up feeling less like a straight “sell” situation for the Twins. Garcia gave up five runs in 4.2 innings in his Yankees debut and is slated to pitch again Friday. The perception of trading Garcia away, which can be second-guessed now that the Twins are suddenly back in the playoff chase, could change if Enns pitches well.
2) Enns has put up gaudy minor league numbers. Over six seasons, 111 appearances (51 starts) and close to 400 innings, he has a 27-15 record with a minuscule 1.89 ERA. Last year he was 14-4 with a 1.73 ERA working almost exclusively as a starter between Class AA and Class AAA. This year he has a 2.28 ERA in the minors. For his minor league career, he’s averaging slightly more than one strikeout per inning and has given up only 13 career home runs — a notable stat against the power-hitting Brewers and perhaps one of the reasons he was tabbed to start Thursday.
3) So why has it taken so long for a lefty with those numbers to make it to the majors? Well, the short answer is he doesn’t have overpowering stuff. Originally a 19th-round pick in 2012 out of Central Michigan, Enns’ fastball is in the low-90s and he mixes in a change-up plus a breaking ball. That repertoire suggests he relies a lot on location, changing speeds and keeping hitters off-balance — something that gets harder when you go against the best hitters in the world.
4) Enns has also been slowed by significant injuries. He had Tommy John surgery midway through the 2014 season, and his recovery gobbled up a good chunk of 2015 as well — though he put up very good numbers both of those seasons. He missed more than two months this season with a shoulder strain, but again has returned to pitch well.
5) Is he on Twitter? You bet! Most of his tweets seem to be about religion, teammates, other sports or compression shorts.