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La Velle E. Neal III and Phil Miller report on the Twins from wherever they make news

Hildenberger's Twins debut features scoreless inning


The bullpen phone rang in the ninth inning. Bullpen coach Eddie Guardado answered and told Trevor Hildenberger to warm up for the bottom of the inning.

"My stomach dropped and your heart jumps in your throat," Hildenberger said. "Once I got on that game mound, I felt normal. I was just competing. Luckily, I was able to throw enough strikes to get some guys out."

And that's how Hildenberger's major league debut went on Friday as he threw a scoreless ninth in the Twins' win over Cleveland. He struck out Roberto Perez on a change up and gave up a double to Bradley Zimmer.

But Zimmer hits off Hildenberger aren't new, I found out when I asked him if he's faced him in the minors.

"I faced him in college a lot," he said. "He went to USF (San Francisco). I don't think I've ever gotten him out. He rakes me. There's nothing new about that."

Twins manager Paul Molitor approved of the outing. Of course he would. He'll take a zero any way he can get it these days. 

"He made it exciting with the double, but he got through it," Molitor said.

Hildenberger went to Cal, by the way. Which meant the battery in the ninth was a Cal guy throwing Stanford guy in Jason Castro. Lots of brain power at work.

Hildenberger had scouts in the pressbox focusing hard on him. The radar gun malfunctioned a few times during his outing, which they weren't happy about. But they saw the change up in action as he got the strikeout of Perez and a swing and miss from Jason Kipnis before he grounded to first. Hildenberger will throw it to righthanded hitters as well as efties.

"It's a weapon more than any other pitch," Hildenberger said. "It's a big part of my game."

After the game, he was outside the clubhouse talking to family and friends, including his parents, John and Denise. They happened to be in Rochester when he got the news when he was called up, so he was able to tell them in person. They immediately drove to Cleveland and were rewarded right away.

You only get to debut once, and Hildenberger made the most out of it.

"Felt good to get the first one out of the way," he said, "and kind of adjust. I can get a good night rest. This one feels good, really good."

Twins start series in Cleveland sans Sano in lineup


Miguel Sano has been slowed by a sinus infection over the last few days, and manager Paul Molitor said that last night's flight in from the Twin Cities, "set him back."

So Sano is not in the starting lineup tonight, although he could be available to pinch hit. The timing isn't the best, with a series against the mighty Indians starting tonight.

It leads to an interesting lineup, with on base maven Kennys Vargas batting in the No. 3 spot. His on base percentage is .277, but the Twins hope he can live Sano's life for one night.

"Maybe I'll play tomorrow," said a sick-looking Sano with his hoodie pulled over his head.

New pitchers are here

Dillon Gee and Trevor Hildenberger are here to save the day. Gee was designated for assignment by Texas last week and elected free agency on Sunday. The Twins signed him on Wednesday. He spent two days in Rochester and never wore a jersey. He charted pitches on Thursday, which he did from the clubhouse.

But the Twins are in a jam. It's bullpen has been tormented by short outings by starters and poor relieving. So they called up Gee, who has pitched in 151 major league games, up to fill a long relief role. It's a role the Twins really haven't had filled this year. Rule 5 pick Justin Haley could be the guy but is on the disabled list. Anthony Swarzak was the last effective innings eater.

So that's what Gee will do for now.

Gee will wear No. 35, making him the first person to wear Ron Gardenhire's old number. According to the Twins media, the last player (not coach or manager) to wear that number was John Candeleria in 1990.

Hildenberger took a steady path to majors, going from a college pitcher who threw a straight 85 mph fastball to a sidearmer who throws 87-93 with movement. He throws a slider and change up too. His career numbers are impressive:  In 124 minor league games, he has a 1.57 ERA and 52 saves. In 171.2 innings, he's given up FOUR home runs (two to the same guy, he thinks), walked 26 and struck out 200.

Will it work in the majors? That's the big question. Someone asked me on twitter last night if he threw hard. I responded that many sidearmers don't throw hard (is Pat Neshek a sidearmer? He's from another world) and this is about the funk, the whole funk and nothing but the funk. I'm sticking to that. Whatever he does has played at every level he's pitched at so far.

Hildenberger, 26, also will try to throw hitters off once in awhile by reverting to an over-the-top delivery.

Someone had to go to make room on the 40-man for these guys. The Twins DFA'd Alex Wimmers and Mason Melotakis (!).

Melotakis recently was promoted to Rochester and has two scoreless outings for the Red Wings when he was (likely) blindsided by the news. Melotakis seemed to be in the mix to be called up eventually.

Now he out there to be claimed. A lefty who can throw in the low 90's (his velo, some say, has been down), will attract attention.

The Twins are about to use their 26th and 27th pitchers of the season. To get to that point, they've been forced to circulate guys through the bottom part of the 40-man roster. And Melotakis was next in line.

"They [decisions] aren't easy, so you don't take them lightly," Molitor said.

Hector Santiago will start on Saturday in Boston, so someone will have to come off the roster then to make room for him.

The north edge of a weather system has tickled the area throughout the afternoon. It's not raining right now. The tarp is sitting in left field, though. The hope is that the rain stays south so the game can be played.


Twins

Brian Dozier, 2B
Joe Mauer, 1B
Kennys Vargas, DH
Max Kepler, RF
Eduardo Escobar, 3B
Eddie Rosario, LF
Jorge Polanco, SS
Jason Castro, C
Byron Buxton, CF

Adalberto Mejia, LHP

Indians

Jason Kipnis, 2B
Erik Gonzalez, 3B
Francisco Lindor, SS
Edwin Encarnacion, DH
Carlos Santana, 1B
Austin Jackson, CF
Lonnie Chisenhall, RF
Roberto Perez, C
Daniel Robertson, LF

Trevor Bauer, RHP