FORT MYERS, Fla. – Mike Pelfrey speared Adeiny Hechavarria’s comebacker almost by instinct Thursday, then reached for the ball in order to throw him out. But it wouldn’t budge.
“I’m reaching, I’m reaching, and it’s not coming [out],” Pelfrey said of the fourth-inning play. With Hechavarria nearing first base and the baseball wedged in the webbing, Pelfrey yanked the glove off his hand, took several steps toward first, and tossed the glove underhand to Joe Mauer, just in time.
“I don’t know who was more panicked about it, Joe or Mike,” manager Paul Molitor said with a laugh. “When he started to flip it, I just envisioned the ball coming out.”
But it didn’t, and Mauer held on to the unexpected package, recording the most memorable out of the Twins’ 7-6 victory over Miami at Hammond Stadium.
“My reactions were good,” Pelfrey said. “I think I did what I was supposed to. I got the out.”
He got nine of them, in fact, and did it with relative ease, allowing two hits and no runs and announcing that the competition for the fifth-starter job might be a close one. Pelfrey used his sinking two-seam fastball, mixed in some sliders and changeups, and even a curveball or two. Most important, it made an impression on Molitor, who later this month must choose from among at least five candidates for the starter’s role.
“When the first three hitters all top the ball into the dirt, it tells you he’s getting his movement back. Obviously getting that movement on his two-seamer is important, but his secondary pitches, he backed up [with them] nicely today,” Molitor said. “You want hard decisions, that’s a good thing. Sometimes they work themselves out, sometimes they make it tough. I’ll choose tough.”
Pelfrey is returning from elbow surgery last June, and “I’m healthy again. When I’m healthy, I feel like I can get people out and be successful.” He definitely doesn’t want a bullpen job as a consolation prize, though “if that’s what they decide is best for the team, so be it. I’ll figure it out and do the best I can.”
He did Thursday, after starter Phil Hughes allowed four second-inning runs, holding the Marlins in check while the Twins rallied.
Minnesota scored in six of its eight innings, beginning with Brian Dozier’s home run in the first inning, and ending with Chris Herrmann’s tiebreaking sacrifice fly in the eighth.