He didn’t care about the history he was making, or the lead he was protecting, or the look of yet another new home ballpark. When the bullpen door opened and he jogged to the mound on Saturday, Oliver Drake was just glad he wasn’t grounded anymore.
“The hardest part [of his bizarre 2018 season] has been the days in between [teams],” Drake said after pitching the ninth inning of the Twins’ 8-2 victory over Kansas City, making him the first player ever to play for five MLB teams in one season. “It feels like when you’re grounded and you’re watching all your friends play outside, and you’re not allowed. Like you’re in timeout.”
Timeout is over for the righthanded reliever, and perhaps for a couple of Twins hitters who showed signs of ramping up their offense on Saturday. Max Kepler and Logan Morrison, each of whom is trying to put together a late-season surge, both homered, Eddie Rosario did as well, and Jose Berrios allowed only five hits, all singles, over seven innings to collect his 11th win.
And with the lead safe and history in the wind, manager Paul Molitor called upon the 31-year-old righthander from Massachusetts, claimed off waivers a day earlier. Drake broke camp with the Brewers in March, was traded to the Indians in May, and was claimed and waived by both the Angels and Blue Jays during the past couple of months. The Twins, Molitor said, like his low-90s cut fastball and the curve he taught himself last winter, and believe that his rough season (a 7.57 ERA) is partly because “he hasn’t had a chance to settle into any one place.”
To which Drake says: You think?
“It’s definitely been a long year. My wife [Shannon] would appreciate being a little more settled,” Drake said. When he arrived in Cleveland, for instance, he rented the apartment that Matt Belisle, now his teammate, had just vacated. On the day that Shannon unpacked all their belongings, Drake came home with bad news: He got designated for assignment. Pack up.
“So we haven’t had an apartment in a little while. It’s been a lot of hotels. A lot of what we packed originally to start the year was sent home. We’re packing a lot lighter now,” Drake said. “She’s been moving around with me, and it’s kind of chaos.”
It was nothing but calm when he pitched for the Twins on Saturday, retiring all three batters he faced on 19 pitches. An assignment carried out by the first U.S. Naval Academy grad to make the big leagues since 1921, a guy who arrived, suitcases in hand, just three hours before game time.
“It’s hard to get into a rhythm. A lot of guys are grinding, and I feel like my season hasn’t really even started. Every month, I’ve had an All-Star break,” Drake said. “My catch partner on a lot of days is a fence. So it’s really hard to stay sharp, and then try to get major league hitters out. I’m just glad to go out and compete again.”
The Twins are glad to see Berrios stay so sharp, outside of his first three-walk inning since his rookie year. And to see Kepler, who had not had a three-hit game since a trio of them in April, connect on two singles, a walk and the long two-run fourth-inning home run that put the Twins in front for good.
Logan Morrison’s homer was his sixth in 15 games. “Probably the best ball we’ve seen him hit all season,” Molitor said.