The mission for Jake Odorizzi today, if he chooses to accept it, is to command his fastball better and throw more strikes. Then, his array of pitches will come into play.
It's 15 starts into Odorizzi's Twins career, and we haven't seen his best yet. And he's sounded frustrated that we haven't seen it. Especially in recent starts. Odorizzi hasn't pitched at least six innings since May 14 at Seattle, which is unacceptable for a starter with his experience and talent.
"I think as of late, he's probably a little frustrated," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "We're trying to find ways (for him) to become more efficient so we're not burning up pitches as fast as we have been with him in the past several starts, really. And just looking for ways to get a little bit deeper."
Odorizzi has the stuff - his two fastballs, slider, curve and split-finger change up - to be hard to figure out when he's on. But he's struggled to get the feel for all of his pitches. You can tell in the early innings that he seems to be searching for what is working that day. All pitchers go through it, but it seems to be every-fifth-day challenge for him.
"Just trying to have a little bit better feel for all of his pitches from inning one where he doesn't have to battle and burn up pitches and the next thing you know we are looking at five innings maximum," Molitor said. "If he is commanding his fastball it is going to set up everything and hopefully he starts to get some quicker outs."
Odorizzi is 4-0 with a 2.02 ERA in his career against Texas, perhaps the right team at the right time for him to face.
In other news:
Byron Buxton belted a three-run homer last night for Class AAA Rochester. Even more interesting is that he's using a leg kick again. It's not as big as the one he tried out a couple years ago, but it's back. It will be interesting to see how that works when he gets back up here. Many hitters get rid of leg kicks once they reach the majors.
"There's a little one there," Molitor said. "It's maybe not as big as it was a couple years back. I think he's not afraid to try different things as far as a leg kick as long as the balance stays in place. We've talked about times where he's comfortable using that and other times with two strikes you might see it taken out of the equation to see the ball a little longer, those types of things. The fact we didn't put a return date on his rehab is that it gives him a chance to figure some of these things out without having to worry too much about the results."
Jorge Polanco, whose PED suspension will end July 2, will be the designated hitter on Sunday for the Class A Fort Myers Miracle, face Ervin Santana during a live batting practice session on Monday then play shortstop for the Miracle on Tuesday. His right index finger injury (he injured it in car door, then dealt with an infection) has healed sufficiently to where he can resume activities.
Molitor clarified his statement on Friday when he said that righthander Ervin Santana threw 35 pitches in a bullpen session. Santana actually threw 45 pitches.
"It was 45 and not 35, and I don't think he hit 90 mph with velocity, from what I can gather," Molitor said. "So we're trying to see where he's at after Monday, maybe have an increased session the other day."
O.K., he didn't touch 90?
"It's been a bit of a journey," Molitor said. "It went from him coming into camp ready to go, to the setback of realizing that this thing needed to be repaired. I can't say I'm surprised, just I think he was so worried about feel of the ball and the grip here for a long time, hopefully we're just about over that hurdle. That might free him up mentally to go ahead and not have any inhibition about letting it go."
You hear updates like this, and you wonder if the Twins will ever have all their key players healthy.
Shin-Soo Choo, LF
Elvis Andrus, SS
Nomar Mazara, RF
Adrian Beltre, DH
Rougned Odor, 2B
Jurickson Profar, 3B
Joey Gallo, 1B
Robinson Chirinos, C
Delino DeShields, CF
Yovani Gallardo, RHP
Joe Mauer, DH
Eddie Rosario, LF
Eduardo Escobar, 3B
Brian Dozier, 2B
Logan Morrison, 1B
Taylor Motter, SS
Max Kepler, RF
Mitch Garver, C
Ryan LaMarre, CF
Jake Odorizzi, RHP