Interest, investment in Tonkin appears to pay off for Twins

  • Article by: LA VELLE E. NEAL III , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 11, 2013 - 2:04 AM

Five years after they brought Jason Kubel's brother-in-law to town for a closer look, Michael Tonkin is one of the Twins' top pitching prospects.

hide

Twins pitching prospect Michael Tonkin

Photo: Jerry Holt, Star Tribune file

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

 

– One June day in 2008, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson headed for the Metrodome bullpen before a game to join a group of team officials watching some thin righthanded high school pitcher work out for them.

“He was a big tall kid winging it,” Gardenhire said. “His mechanics were wacky and all that stuff. [But] we said right away, this is the kind of guy we want in the organization.”

Gardenhire and Anderson have worked with all types of pitchers, but they are no different from other teams in desiring more power arms in the farm system. So when they laid their eyes on Michael Tonkin, they saw potential and told the club to do what it could to sign him.

So the Twins signed Tonkin, a 30th-round pick who was headed for college to Southern California, for $230,000. Now Tonkin, 23, is emerging as one of those coveted power arms, which would make the $230,000 a good investment.

In 44 games between Class A Beloit and Class A Fort Myers last year, Tonkin was 4-1 with a 2.08 ERA and 12 saves while averaging 12.6 strikeouts per nine innings. He also pitched for Peoria of the Arizona Fall League, going 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA with three walks and seven strikeouts in 10 games.

His fastball reaches about 95 miles per hour, but the development of a lethal slider has helped him rise up the organizational prospect rankings. Tonkin tinkered with a curveball and slider for several years before the breakthrough last season.

“The development of the slider last year was huge,” Tonkin said. “I felt like I had hit a roadblock the years before that, but getting that slider down was definitely a difference-maker.

“It’s still a work in progress, but it’s much better than it was before.”

The Twins were prepared to be patient with Tonkin. He has made 132 appearances in the minors, but 25 of those were starts. Last season was the first time he spent an entire season working out of the bullpen.

“As you know, we brought him to the Metrodome a few years ago just before he signed,” Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said. “He had the body, had the arm action. He was athletic enough. He had velocity. He had a lot of life. I think it was just maturation both mentally and physically.”

Tonkin, from Glendale, Calif., gladly signed with the Twins in 2008. He had slipped in the draft that year because teams were scared off by his college commitment. The other factor was that his brother-in-law, Jason Kubel, played for the Twins at the time. Kubel told the Twins that he was willing to sign for the right offer, and the Twins decided to bring him in for the workout.

So Tonkin decided to skip college to join the Twins. He’s baby-faced but stands 6-7 and has filled out to 220 pounds.

He has made it look easy so far this spring, tossing four scoreless innings while giving up one hit and two walks with two strikeouts. He threw the ball well during an inning of work Friday against the Red Sox.

The Twins have started cutting players from camp, and Tonkin might not be around much longer as the club evaluates players who can make the big-league team. He is expected to open the season at Class AA New Britain, so with the right breaks, he could debut sometime this year.

If he continues to overpower hitters the way he did last season, there will be at least one person with the Twins who will lead the charge to have him called up — one of the people who watched him work out in Dome in 2008.

“I love him,” Gardenhire said. “He throws the heck out of the ball and lets it fly.

“They have done a really nice job with him through the minor league system, getting his mechanics cleaned up, and he is one of our young bucks. He can be a big factor in this organization.”

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Atlanta 12:05 PM
Detroit
Philadelphia 12:05 PM
Houston
St. Louis 12:05 PM
Miami
Baltimore 12:05 PM
Tampa Bay
NY Yankees 12:05 PM
Pittsburgh
Chicago Cubs 2:05 PM
San Francisco
Los Angeles 2:05 PM
Chicago WSox
San Diego 2:05 PM
Seattle
Cleveland 2:05 PM
Cincinnati
Milwaukee 2:05 PM
LA Angels
Oakland 2:05 PM
Chicago Cubs
Texas 2:05 PM
Kansas City
Colorado 2:10 PM
Arizona
NY Mets 4:05 PM
Washington
Boston 6:05 PM
Minnesota
Toronto 6:05 PM
Baltimore
Oklahoma City 7:00 PM
Chicago
Dallas 9:30 PM
Portland
Calgary 6:00 PM
Boston
St. Louis 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Minnesota 6:00 PM
Washington
Toronto 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Dallas 6:30 PM
Florida
NY Islanders 7:00 PM
Nashville
Vancouver 8:00 PM
Arizona
Montreal 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Morgan State 3:00 PM
MD-Eastern Shore
Niagara 4:00 PM
Siena
Holy Cross 6:00 PM
Bucknell
Western Ky 6:00 PM
Charlotte
Navy 6:00 PM
Colgate
Temple 6:00 PM
East Carolina
UAB 6:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
Boston Univ 6:00 PM
Lafayette
American Univ 6:00 PM
Lehigh
Wisconsin 6:00 PM
Minnesota
Fairfield 6:00 PM
Saint Peters
Arkansas 6:00 PM
South Carolina
Morehead State 6:00 PM
UT Martin
USC Upstate 6:00 PM
Fla Gulf Coast
Lipscomb 6:00 PM
North Florida
Southern Ill 6:05 PM
Missouri State
Texas State 6:30 PM
Appalachian St
SC State 6:30 PM
Bethune-Cookman
Delaware State 6:30 PM
Coppin State
Middle Tennessee 6:30 PM
FIU
Texas-Arlington 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
Norfolk State 6:30 PM
Hampton
NC A&T 6:30 PM
NC Central
Savannah State 7:00 PM
Florida A&M
Southern Miss 7:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Georgia State 7:00 PM
ULM
Marshall 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Rice 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Ark-Little Rock 7:15 PM
Louisiana
South Alabama 7:30 PM
Arkansas State
Alabama State 7:30 PM
Grambling St
Alabama A&M 7:30 PM
Jackson State
Sam Houston St 7:30 PM
Lamar
Central Arkansas 7:30 PM
Nicholls
Portland State 7:30 PM
Northern Ariz
Southern U 7:30 PM
Prairie View
Alcorn State 7:30 PM
Texas Southern
Houston Baptist 7:30 PM
TX A&M-CC
SE Louisiana 7:45 PM
New Orleans
California 8:00 PM
Arizona
Eastern Ill 8:00 PM
Belmont
Memphis 8:00 PM
Connecticut
VA Commonwealth 8:00 PM
Davidson
Ark-Pine Bluff 8:00 PM
Miss Valley St
Marist 8:00 PM
Quinnipiac
Sacramento St 8:00 PM
Southern Utah
Northwestern St 8:00 PM
Stephen F Austin
North Texas 8:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Colorado 8:00 PM
Washington
Idaho 8:00 PM
Weber State
Abilene Christian 8:00 PM
Incarnate Word
Eastern Wash 8:05 PM
Idaho State
Bradley 8:35 PM
Drake
Cal State Fullerton 9:00 PM
UC Irvine
CS-Northridge 9:00 PM
Long Beach State
UC Riverside 9:00 PM
UC Davis
Stanford 10:00 PM
Arizona State
Utah 10:00 PM
Washington St
Monmouth 29 2nd Half 17:08
Canisius 27
Wake Forest 10:00 AM
(22) Syracuse
Saint Louis 10:30 AM
VA Commonwealth
Saint Peters 10:30 AM
Rider
UNC-Asheville 11:00 AM
Liberty
UNC Greensboro 11:00 AM
(17) Chattanooga
Michigan State 11:30 AM
Michigan
Arkansas 12:00 PM
Ole Miss
Manhattan 12:30 PM
Niagara
Massachusetts 1:00 PM
Richmond
Virginia 1:00 PM
Miami-Florida
Campbell 1:00 PM
Winthrop
Jacksonville St 1:00 PM
Belmont
Morgan State 1:00 PM
MD-Eastern Shore
Furman 1:15 PM
Samford
Oregon 1:30 PM
Washington St
Indiana 1:55 PM
(23) Rutgers
Pepperdine 2:00 PM
Loyola Marymount
Auburn 2:25 PM
(18) Texas A&M
Morehead St 3:00 PM
Tennessee St
George Mason 3:30 PM
Saint Josephs
Western Carolina 3:30 PM
East Tenn St
Arizona 4:00 PM
UCLA
Texas State 4:00 PM
Appalachian St
TX-Arlington 4:00 PM
Georgia Southern
SC State 4:30 PM
Bethune-Cookman
Delaware State 4:30 PM
Coppin State
Portland 4:30 PM
Santa Clara
Norfolk State 4:30 PM
Hampton
NC A&T 4:30 PM
NC Central
Savannah State 5:00 PM
Florida A&M
Virginia Tech 5:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Central Arkansas 5:00 PM
Nicholls
Houston Baptist 5:00 PM
TX A&M-CC
Gardner-Webb 5:00 PM
Radford
Georgia 5:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 5:00 PM
Marshall
Ark-Little Rock 5:00 PM
Louisiana
South Alabama 5:05 PM
Arkansas State
Georgia State 5:15 PM
ULM
Sam Houston St 5:30 PM
Lamar
SE Louisiana 5:30 PM
New Orleans
Northwestern St 5:30 PM
Stephen F Austin
Alabama A&M 5:30 PM
Jackson State
Alabama State 5:30 PM
Grambling
Ark-Pine Bluff 5:30 PM
Miss Valley St
Southern U 5:30 PM
Prairie View
Alcorn State 5:30 PM
Texas Southern
Wofford 5:45 PM
Mercer
Abilene Christian 6:00 PM
Incarnate Word
La Salle 6:00 PM
Rhode Island
Illinois 6:00 PM
Nebraska
TX-San Antonio 6:00 PM
Rice
Valparaiso 6:00 PM
Oakland
Missouri State 6:05 PM
Indiana State
Georgia Tech 7:00 PM
(15) North Carolina
Presbyterian 7:00 PM
High Point
Charlotte 7:00 PM
Western Ky
Florida Atlantic 7:00 PM
UAB
Texas-El Paso 7:00 PM
North Texas
Wichita State 7:00 PM
Evansville
Loyola-Chicago 7:00 PM
Northern Iowa
Bradley 7:05 PM
Drake
Vanderbilt 7:30 PM
(12) Kentucky
Colorado 8:00 PM
USC
San Francisco 8:00 PM
Pacific
FIU 8:00 PM
Middle Tennessee
Idaho State 8:00 PM
Eastern Washington
Weber State 8:00 PM
Idaho
Purdue 8:25 PM
Minnesota
Cal-Irvine 9:00 PM
Cal State Fullerton
Long Beach St 9:00 PM
CS-Northridge
Hawaii 9:00 PM
UC Santa Barbara
UC Davis 9:00 PM
UC-Riverside
Northern Ariz 9:00 PM
Portland State
Southern Utah 9:00 PM
Sacramento St
Utah 10:30 PM
Washington
BYU 10:30 PM
St Marys-CA
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: Who is doing the best job coaching a Minnesota pro sports team?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close