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Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968.

Mysterious return of Boshers followed by much-needed innings eating

Buddy Boshers benefitted from the horrendous quality of the Twins’ 2016 pitching staff to spend two stretches of the season in the big leagues. He was modestly successful with a 4.25 ERA in 37 appearances as a left-handed reliever.

The Twins allowed him to retain his place on the 40-player major league roster through the winter. He went to spring training with a chance to be the second bullpen lefty (behind Taylor Rogers) and in competition with Ryan O’Rourke and Craig Breslow.

What followed in Florida was a zealous attempt by Boshers to lose his place on the big-league roster and to earn his release from the organization.

 Paul Molitor kept running out Boshers, hoping to be impressed, and what the manager received was a 10.61 ERA in 10 appearance. In total, Boshers pitched 9 1/3 innings and allowed 15 hits, including four home runs.

The assumption by all near the end of the exhibition schedule was that ByungHo Park would be added to the roster to serve as the designated hitter, and Boshers would be used to clear the required spot on the 40-man.

Derek Falvey, the new baseball boss, was not of a mind to give Park a place on the Opening Day roster based on what took place in spring training. So, he stayed on the Rochester roster, and Boshers was sent there on a big-league option.

The idea that Boshers, soon to be 28 and a pitcher rescued from independent baseball two years ago, would return to the Twins seemed preposterous after watching the beating he took in exhibitions.

On Saturday, the Twins were involved in one of the dreariest 9-inning marathons in franchise history, and then announced the first two roster moves of the season, involving rookie pitchers:

Lefthander Adalberto Mejia was heading to Rochester after three erratic starts, and reliever Justin Haley was going on the disabled list with alleged tendinitis in his right biceps.

The replacements were announced on Sunday:

First, there was Kennys Vargas, which brought no surprise. Vargas would’ve been on the team out of Florida if he had not spent most of three weeks on the bench for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic (and then fouled a ball off his foot and missed time with the Twins in late March).

Second, there was Boshers, which came with the reaction, “WHAT?’’

Boshers had pitched in six games with an ERA of 7.50 at Rochester. He gave up three runs in 1 1/3 innings in his first time out on April 10, and has barely pitched since then.

On the surface, choosing Boshers to fill a spot in the bullpen seemed a crazed devotion to the 40-player roster by Falvey’s brain trust.

I mean, Terry Ryan could be irrational about the sanctity of the 40-man, but even he wouldn’t have gone to the mat for Buddy and kept him around this spring.

This seemed so illogical that an explanation was sought from Thad Levine, the Twins’ general manager and consigliere to Falvey. Turns out, it wasn’t as much devotion to Boshers and the 40-man as a collection of circumstances involving the Twins’ other possibilities.

For instance:

Nick Tepesch. There were hints that Molitor would’ve liked to have the veteran righthander as the long man for his bullpen to open the season. Falvey wasn’t willing to make that move, so Tepesch went to Rochester and has done well as a starter.

Why not Tepesch for the bullpen now? Answer: The Twins will be returning to a fifth starter in two weeks, it could be Tepesch, and for now, they want him to stay stretched out.

Alex Wimmers. He was outstanding in spring training and there seemed a chance he would stay and Michael Tonkin would be exposed to waivers. Falvey passed on that option, and now Wimmers has been subpar out of Rochester’s bullpen.

J.T. Chargois. The Twins had a spot waiting for him in the bullpen this spring and he pitched poorly. Then, he came up with a neck strain and just started pitching last week for Rochester.

Two other pitchers on the 40-man, Ryan O’Rourke and Jake Reed, are disabled with injuries.

“We didn’t have that many options, when it was decided to put Haley on the disabled list,’’ Levine said. “The fact Boshers is on the 40-man contributed, but it wasn’t the determining factor. He’s fresh. And in the few times he’s pitched lately, he’s been better.

“This was the move that made the most sense for right now.’’

The Twins had a chance to test that theory early on Sunday. Kyle Gibson had another awful start vs. Detroit, lasting 2 2/3 innings, allowing seven runs and eight hits, including his fifth home run of the season.

In the middle of Detroit’s five-run third, there was Buddy Boshers up and warming in a location many of us never thought we would see him again: the home bullpen at Target Field.

Gibson left trailing 7-1 and with his ERA at 9.00. Boshers came in with all five runs in, walked Austin Romine and retired Ian Kinsler to end the terrible third. And then Boshers threw 21 pitches to get six straight outs in the fourth and fifth.

The Twins brought him here for some innings eating in case Gibson tossed up another clunker, and when that happened, Boshers might have gone from a lost cause a month ago to a lefty with a second chance.

As Cardinals pitcher Joaquin Andujar stated so eloquently three decades go, “Youneverknow’’ in baseball.

Reusse: What's in an age? Mauer is turning a foreboding 34

Bloomington’s Kent Hrbek turned 34 on May 21, 1994. He was on the Twins’ disabled list. He returned in June and announced in early August that he would retire at season’s end. That season came to an abrupt end when the players went on strike after the games of Aug. 11.

Stillwater’s Glen Perkins turned 34 on March 2. He continues to rehab in Fort Myers, Fla., and could pitch again this season. Perkins also said earlier that he probably will quit if the Twins don’t pick up his option ($6.5 million) for 2018, and he realizes there is little chance of that.

St. Paul’s Joe Mauer will turn 34 on Wednesday. More and more, that birthday appears to be the jumping-off point for Minnesota natives who have been well-honored lifers for the Twins.

The difference in Joe’s case is he has $23 million guaranteed for 2018, while Hrbek was at the end of his contract in 1994 and Perkins can be bought out for $700,000 in 2018.

Over the previous two seasons, Mauer was swinging with authority in exhibitions and followed with strong Aprils, leading to optimistic media reports asking, “Is that the old Joe we’re seeing?’’

The answer was, “Not even close.’’

Mauer batted .256 with 98 strikeouts from May 1 to season’s end in 2015, and batted .249 with 84 strikeouts after May 1 in 2016. The Old Joe never had more than 64 strikeouts, and his batting averages ranged from .293 to .365 in his first seven seasons (2004 to ’10).

There were no optimistic sightings of the Old Joe reported from Fort Myers during the 2017 exhibition schedule. It wasn’t caution, since “Joe is back’’ reports make for good space fillers in March.

This spring, hitting the ball hard was very much an exception for Mauer, and there has been almost none of that to start the season. It’s early, but early was when we had optimism for Joe the previous two years.

He was at .189 with no extra-base hits through Saturday. You’d say “happy birthday” to Joe, but 34ths haven’t been fulfilling milestones for hometown boys and Twins lifers.

PATRICK'S PLUS THREE

Minnesota lefties with a Twins impact:

• Dick Stigman, Nimrod. He pitched four (1962 to ’65) of seven seasons for Twins; outstanding as spot starter and long reliever.

• Tom Burgmeier, St. Cloud. He was with Twins for four (1974 to ’77) of his 17 seasons. Gene Mauch pitched him 115 ⅓ innings as the bullpen lefty in 1976.

• Jerry Koosman, Appleton. One of the aces of 1969 Miracle Mets, “Koos’’ had two full seasons (1979 and ’80) for Twins and was 36-26 for non-contending teams.

Read Patrick Reusse’s blog at startribune.com/patrick. E-mail him at preusse@startribune.com.

TV Listings

Local Schedule

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  • Detroit at Twins

    1:10 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Colorado at Minnesota United FC

    5 pm on Ch. 29, 1500-AM

  • Twins at Texas

    7:05 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

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    7:05 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

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    6:15 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • San Jose at Minnesota United FC

    7 pm on Ch. 29, 1500-AM

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    1:15 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

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