After shaky start to pro career, Twins propect Wimmers is back in control

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 8, 2012 - 6:59 AM

 Alex Wimmers seems to have solved the problem that led to him losing the ability to throw strikes.

FORT MYERS, FLA. — When the Twins made Alex Wimmers a first-round draft pick out of Ohio State in 2010, scouts raved about his pinpoint command and feel for pitching, which made the events of last April 11 all the more puzzling.

Wimmers, a two-time Big Ten Pitcher of the Year, not only couldn't throw strikes in his season debut for Class A Fort Myers, he couldn't feel the ball.

"I honestly don't know when it happened, but it did," Wimmers said this week. "I just woke up overnight, I guess, and couldn't throw. It really feels like your whole body's numb, and you can't control anything."

The Twins had hoped Wimmers would climb quickly through their system, as 2009 first-round pick Kyle Gibson had a year earlier, advancing from Class A to Class AAA. Catcher Danny Rams had heard all about Wimmers' precision and couldn't wait to see it.

"The first pitch he threw, literally, went halfway up the backstop behind me," Rams said. "He couldn't find it after that. He was throwing it up, down, in, out. The only time he threw a strike is when he threw it like 80 miles per hour, just lobbing it in there."

Wimmers walked the bases loaded. Then he walked home three runs, sprinkling in three wild pitches without recording a single out. He threw 28 pitches. Four strikes.

The Cincinnati native was shaken, and so were the Twins. Former Cardinals pitcher Rick Ankiel had his career derailed by the yips, sending him to the outfield. Chuck Knoblauch and Steve Sax are among the infielders who've been through this throwing syndrome.

"When you see that happening, you better slow a guy down and try to get him on track before he goes out there again," said Eric Rasmussen, Twins minor league pitching coordinator. "So we kind of took some time and worked him through it."

• • •

Looking back, the 23-year-old Wimmers has a better understanding what happened to him last April. Until that night, he never had experienced anything like it, never really even struggled.

Then again, he hadn't always seemed destined for greatness, either. He wasn't drafted out of Moeller High School in Cincinnati. He wasn't handed a full ride to Ohio State. At 6-1, he didn't have one of those large frames that make scouts drool, like the 6-6 Gibson.

Wimmers spent his freshman year in the Buckeyes bullpen before telling then-coach Bob Todd that he wanted to start. Todd told him he had better learn a third pitch to go with his fastball and curve, so Wimmers spent that summer developing a circle changeup. By the time he was drafted two years later, scouts were comparing that pitch to Brad Radke's.

After drafting him with the 21st overall pick, the Twins gave him a $1.3 million signing bonus. He went 2-0 with a 0.57 ERA in four starts for Fort Myers, raising expectations even higher for 2011.

"Growing up, I was always the underdog," Wimmers said. "It was really different for me, getting selected in the first round and all of a sudden getting all this attention."

Wimmers injured a hamstring last spring, but he said that didn't affect him April 11. What happened wasn't physical, he said, only mental.

The Twins placed him on the disabled list and worked to gradually rebuild his confidence, away from crowds. Wimmers didn't see a psychologist, but he leaned heavily on friends, family and Twins employees, such as Rasmussen.

"If it wasn't for them, I don't know if I'd be here [on a baseball field] today," Wimmers said. "I learned not to take anything in life for granted. I think I've become a better person and better player because of it."

• • •

Wimmers rejoined his Fort Myers teammates last July and made seven relief appearances before moving back into the rotation. On Sept. 3, in his final start, he proved how far he had come, tossing a no-hitter in Jupiter, Fla. Once again, the catcher was Rams.

"When he came back, it was just like a different person," Rams said. "Like the stories I'd heard of him -- in and out, a strike machine. He throws 90-91 [mph], but the ball gets right on you. From where he started the year to where he ended it, I've never seen anything like that."

Other pitchers haven't been as fortunate. The Twins made Shooter Hunt a first-round pick in 2008 and watched him walk 61 batters in 42 2/3 innings for Fort Myers last year. They let him go to the Cardinals last December in the Class AAA phase of the Rule 5 draft.

But Wimmers continued his late-season success during the Twins fall instructional camp. Minor league practice starts again Thursday, and though he likely will start the season in Fort Myers, the Twins hope he'll graduate to Class AA New Britain by midseason.

"What I've learned is you can't look ahead," Wimmers said. "You can only control today, and everything will take care of itself."

Baseball America listed Wimmers as the Twins 25th-best prospect this winter, down from No. 7 last year. But that's OK with Wimmers. He likes having something to prove.

  • related content

  • Bulger provides no relief at all once again in loss

    Thursday March 8, 2012

    Jason Bulger made the Angels' Opening Day roster each of the past four years and seemed like a reliever to watch for the Twins this spring, but his first two...

  • Hardy clarifies hitting comments comparing Orioles, Twins

    Thursday March 8, 2012

    J.J. Hardy said his year with the Twins helped him break a lot of bad habits he had fallen into with Milwaukee.

  • Alex Wimmers was a first-round pick of the Twins out of Ohio State in 2010, but he mysteriously lost his control last spring. He went on the disabled list and slowly built back his confidence enough to throw a no-hitter by the end of the season.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions
2:10 PM ET123456789RHE
ClevelandC. Kluber (16-9)000
MinnesotaA. Swarzak (3-1)000
@theBallpark
Preview | Matchup | Lineup | Log | Wrap | Box

ADVERTISEMENT

Toronto - D. Hutchison 12:05 PM
NY Yankees - M. Tanaka
Washington - S. Strasburg 12:10 PM
Miami - N. Eovaldi
NY Mets - J. deGrom 12:35 PM
Atlanta - E. Santana
Boston - J. Kelly 12:35 PM
Baltimore - M. Gonzalez
Milwaukee - W. Peralta 12:35 PM
Pittsburgh - V. Worley
Chicago WSox - J. Danks 12:40 PM
Tampa Bay - N. Karns
Cleveland - C. Kluber 1:10 PM
Minnesota - A. Swarzak
Detroit - R. Porcello 1:10 PM
Kansas City - J. Guthrie
Seattle - H. Iwakuma 1:10 PM
Houston - C. McHugh
Los Angeles - J. Wright 1:20 PM
Chicago Cubs - J. Turner
Texas - N. Tepesch 2:35 PM
LA Angels - C. Rasmus
Philadelphia - A. Burnett 3:05 PM
Oakland - S. Kazmir
San Francisco - R. Vogelsong 3:10 PM
San Diego - I. Kennedy
Arizona - W. Miley 3:10 PM
Colorado - C. Bergman
Cincinnati - A. Simon 7:05 PM
St. Louis - L. Lynn
San Diego 0 1st Qtr 14:20
Buffalo 0
Dallas 0 1st Qtr 13:50
St. Louis 0
Washington 0 1st Qtr 14:00
Philadelphia 0
Houston 0 1st Qtr 13:50
NY Giants 0
Minnesota 0 1st Qtr 15:00
New Orleans 0
Tennessee 0 1st Qtr 14:41
Cincinnati 0
Baltimore 0 1st Qtr 14:57
Cleveland 0
Green Bay 0 1st Qtr 14:35
Detroit 0
Indianapolis 0 1st Qtr 14:16
Jacksonville 0
Oakland 0 1st Qtr 14:25
New England 0
San Francisco 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Columbus 12:30 PM
Carolina
Buffalo 4:00 PM
Washington
St. Louis 5:30 PM
Columbus
Calgary 7:00 PM
Edmonton
Edmonton 7:00 PM
Calgary
Connecticut 14 FINAL
So Florida 17
Old Dominion 45 FINAL
Rice 42
Troy 0 FINAL
(13) Georgia 66
Georgia Tech 27 FINAL
Virginia Tech 24
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
(11) Michigan State 73
Iowa 24 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
Bowling Green 17 FINAL
(19) Wisconsin 68
Maryland 34 FINAL
Syracuse 20
Tulane 13 FINAL
Duke 47
Hawaii 12 FINAL
Colorado 21
Marshall 48 FINAL
Akron 17
North Carolina 41 FINAL
East Carolina 70
Army 21 FINAL
Wake Forest 24
Virginia 33 FINAL
(21) BYU 41
(6) Texas A&M 58 FINAL
SMU 6
Rutgers 31 FINAL
Navy 24
Central Mich 10 FINAL
Kansas 24
Utah 26 FINAL
Michigan 10
Florida 21 FINAL
(3) Alabama 42
Louisville 34 FINAL
FIU 3
Fla Atlantic 19 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Indiana 31 FINAL
(18) Missouri 27
San Jose St 7 FINAL
Minnesota 24
Texas State 35 FINAL
Illinois 42
Massachusetts 7 FINAL
Penn State 48
Georgia State 14 FINAL
Washington 45
Appalachian St 20 FINAL
Southern Miss 21
Miss State 34 FINAL
(8) LSU 29
Northern Ill 14 FINAL
Arkansas 52
Middle Tennessee 17 FINAL
Memphis 36
Utah State 14 FINAL
Arkansas State 21
Miami-Ohio 24 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Idaho 24 FINAL
Ohio U 36
Ball State 23 FINAL
Toledo 34
(14) So Carolina 48 FINAL
Vanderbilt 34
(4) Oklahoma 45 FINAL
West Virginia 33
Ga Southern 28 FINAL
South Alabama 6
UNLV 14 FINAL
Houston 47
Miami-Florida 31 FINAL
(24) Nebraska 41
New Mexico 38 FINAL
New Mexico St 35
(22) Clemson 17 FINAL
(1) Florida State 23
California 45 FINAL
Arizona 49
San Diego St 7 FINAL
Oregon State 28
(2) Oregon 38 FINAL
Washington St 31
Louisiana 9 FINAL
Boise State 34
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(25) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(12) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(20) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
NC State
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(23) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
(18) Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(14) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
North Carolina 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(22) Clemson
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(8) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Duke 9/27/14 6:30 PM
Miami-Florida
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(9) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(17) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Chivas USA 2:00 PM
Toronto FC
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 23 FINAL
Hamilton 25
Calgary 12:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How sure are you that the Twins are on the road to improving?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close