The Twins’ closer went to Stillwater High School. Maybe someday one of his setup men will be a Ponies alum, too.
Michael Strong, an Afton native who followed closer Glen Perkins at the east metro high school, was claimed off waivers from the Miami Marlins on Friday, the team announced. Strong is a lefthander who has spent all five professional seasons in the Brewers system, after being drafted out of Oklahoma State in the 10th round of the 2011 draft.
Strong owns a 3.61 career ERA in the minors, and after posting a 2.54 ERA at Class AA Biloxi last summer, was promoted to Class AAA Colorado Springs. Things didn’t go as well in the high-altitude there, however, with Strong’s ERA ballooning to 7.16 at AAA, and he became a free agent at the end of the season.
To make room for Strong, the Twins have designated left-hander Logan Darnell for release or assignment. Darnell had a 2.78 ERA as a starter/reliever in Class AAA Rochester last season. He appeared in seven major-league games in 2014, going 0-2 with a 7.12 ERA.
In addition, the Twins announced they have signed right-handed reliever Kevin Jepsen to a one-year contract worth $5.312,500, avoiding arbitration with the fifth of their six eligible players. Only Trevor Plouffe remains unsigned for 2016.
“We’re still talking, which is a good sign,” Twins general manager Terry Ryan said of the team’s negotiations with Plouffe. “We’re hopeful of getting something done, but there was a sizable gap between the numbers.”
Plouffe, coming off a 2015 season in which he hit 22 home runs and drove in a career-high 86 runners, proposed a $7.95 million salary last week, while the Twins offered $7 million. Even the midpoint, $7.475 million, represents a 55 percent increase over the $4.8 million the Twins’ third baseman earned in 2015.
Jepsen, who saved 10 games in his two months with the Twins after being acquired from Tampa Bay, received almost the entire $5.4 million he sought in arbitration. The Twins had countered with a $5.05 million offer, creating a midpoint of $5.225 million. The Twins determined that going through an arbitration hearing over such a small difference wasn’t worth the trouble, Ryan said.
Former Twins reliever Jared Burton has been suspended for 50 games after failing a drug test. Burton pitched for the Twins from 2012-14 and was with three minor-league teams last season. He is currently a free agent and his suspension would begin if he signs a contract.
Burton had been pitching for the Rangers' Class AAA team when he asked for his release in June.