NEW YORK – It’s been a season full of surprises for Ryan LaMarre, starting with beating the odds to make the Twins roster, followed by his hot streak to start the season, and interrupted by an out-of-the-blue, if brief, demotion to the minors. It just got weirder Monday night.
With the Twins trailing the Yankees by 11 runs in the eighth inning, Paul Molitor signaled for LaMarre to take the mound. Turns out, his “experience” at the position — he pitched one inning for the Red Sox in a similar situation in 2016 — earned him the job.
“It was one of those in-passing conversations. ‘Ah, I saw you had a relief appearance in ’16,’ ” LaMarre recounted of Molitor’s inquiry over the weekend. “ ‘So you’re going to throw strikes and not get hurt if that situation arises?’ ”
LaMarre promised he would, but didn’t expect to be needed so quickly. But when righthander Tyler Kinley retired only one of the six batters he faced in the eighth inning, Molitor made his move. “When I saw Robbie [Grossman] coming to the outfield, I figured it was me heading to the mound,” LaMarre said.
He wound up facing three batters — Aaron Hicks popped up (catcher Jason Castro dropped the ball but threw to second for a forceout), Tyler Austin clobbered a home run to left-center,and Miguel Andujar grounded out — and threw five pitches, all of them between 71 and 75 miles per hour.
What were those pitches? “Just … strikes,” LaMarre shrugged. “Castro wasn’t putting down a sign. It was just a bad situation. Try to throw the ball over the plate, and get some balls hit at people, hopefully. Just try to get out of there and save a couple of arms for tomorrow.”
Tyler Duffey, who hasn’t given up an earned run in 11 innings for Class AAA Rochester this season, will join the Twins on Tuesday, a source with knowledge of the transaction said. Duffey, a former starter now working in relief, will replace Alan Busenitz, who was returned to Rochester after the game.
Busenitz appeared in four of the Twins’ six games on this road trip so far, giving up only a solo home run over 3⅓ innings before Monday and earning a victory with two scoreless innings vs. Cleveland in Puerto Rico on Wednesday. But the Yankees scored on him twice, inflating his ERA to 6.75 in four total innings, and the Twins chose to add a fresh arm in Duffey.
Ervin Santana “is getting close” to throwing off a mound, Molitor said, and Trevor May is ready to throw in a game. The progress of those two pitchers could scramble the Twins rotation in another month or so.
Santana, whose last start was here in Yankee Stadium last October in the AL wild-card game, “is doing really well,” Molitor said.
Santana underwent surgery on the middle finger of his pitching hand in February, and “his long-toss and his throwing program have gone extremely well. His finger extension is getting better the more he throws.”
Molitor said he had conferred with athletic trainer Tony Leo about the next step, which will be bullpen sessions at the team’s spring headquarters in Fort Myers, Fla.
Meanwhile, May threw his final session of live batting practice Monday in Fort Myers, and will appear in an extended spring training game later this week. If he pitches well in a couple such games, he could begin a formal rehab stint with the Class A Miracle early next month, the final ramp-up toward a return to the Twins.