Twins doubleheader starters Johnson, Pelfrey old pals

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 1, 2014 - 1:58 AM

Kris Johnson will be trying to beat the Dodgers when he makes his second career major league start Thursday night. But the rookie also wouldn’t mind outpitching the Twins’ starter in the daytime half of the doubleheader.

That’s a competition — Johnson vs. Mike Pelfrey — that goes back nearly a decade.

“Two years with that goof,” Johnson joked about of his Wichita State teammate, who was sitting within earshot. “We were [Nos.] 1 and 2 [for the Shockers] in 2005 before I got injured. But it’s good to get back with old college teammates, and kind of rekindle the rivalry we had within our own team.”

The all-Wheatshocker doubleheader was made possible by Tuesday’s rainout; both teams can add a 26th player for the second game. The Twins chose Johnson, partly because it’s his regular turn to pitch, and partly because their minor league staff recommended him.

The lefthander, acquired from the Pirates in payment for Justin Morneau, is 2-2 with a 2.86 ERA at Class AAA Rochester, and last Friday he held Pawtucket to three hits and one unearned run in six innings.

The Twins are hoping for that kind of outing from Johnson, or at least something better than he showed his last big-league start. On Sept. 1, he gave up five earned runs on seven hits in just two innings against the Cardinals.

“It was just nerves and jitters. It was a thing where, as a kid, you’re growing up and you want to be a big league starting pitcher. I finally got the chance, and I just let the moment get too big for me,” said the 29-year-old Missouri native. And this time? “It’s down to business,” he said.

What’s to talk about?

Commissioner Bud Selig said Friday that baseball will consider whether pitchers should be allowed to use pine tar get a better grip on the baseball. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire says it’s not worth discussing — because pitchers have been using the stuff for decades.

“It’s been done our whole life. It’s not like it’s new. It’s not like guys have never done it so, oh boy, we get to try something different,” Gardenhire said of the controversy sparked by the ejection and 10-game suspension of Yankees starter Michael Pineda, who was found with pine tar on his neck. “It’s a big deal that the commissioner’s talking about legalizing it for a grip. … But it’s not anything new to us.”

Gardenhire said he would probably not ask an umpire to check an opposing pitcher for pine tar, “and I don’t want my pitchers checked. I don’t check guys unless they put it on their neck where everyone can see it.”

In cold weather, especially, pitchers are using the rosin bag, licking their fingers, blowing on their hands, all to keep the ball from slipping out of their hands, and pine tar is no different.

“I think everyone in baseball knows the unwritten rules, and we all try to abide by them,” Gardenhire said. “They’ll keep doing that, [and] as long as we don’t put it on our neck or carry a rag in our glove, I think we’ll be fine.”

Etc.

• The Twins were as interested as the rest of Minnesota about Wednesday’s Wild playoff game in Denver, but players said they were resigned to not getting to watch any of it until their game was over. “I wish,” reliever Brian Duensing said. “But we aren’t allowed to have cellphones in the bullpen..”

• The survey was decidedly unscientific, but the Twins television combo of Dick Bremer and Bert Blyleven finished with the seventh-highest overall grade this week in voting conducted by awfulannouncing.com. Of the 962 readers who voted, the website said, 243 gave the Twins crew an A and 365 rated them a B.

“I appreciate the patience and tolerance of Twins fans,” Bremer said.

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