ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Caleb Thielbar never was crazy about people quoting his streaky stats to him. But the end to those stats was even worse.
Thielbar surrendered a seventh-inning home run to Ben Zobrist on Monday, the first hit he’s allowed in a month, and the first run he’s allowed in the major leagues — period.
“It was just right over the middle of the plate, belt high,” Thielbar said of the pitch that inflated his ERA from 0.00 to 0.45. “Where guys like that get most of their home runs.”
Guys like that hadn’t done it to Thielbar until now, however. The Randolph, Minn., native pitched 20 innings without being charged with a run, the longest active streak in the majors when it was broken, and his 17 appearances without a run to start his career makes him only the seventh player since 1921 to achieve that.
But it wasn’t only runs. Tuesday is the one-month anniversary of the last hit Thielbar allowed, an infield single to Jeff Kobernus in Washington on June 9. He pitched 31 at-bats afterward without allowing another hit — he’s now given up only six so far all year — which approached record territory in that category, too. Only five Twins in history, according to Elias Sports Bureau, pitched more consecutive at-bats without a hit, led by Scott Erickson in 1994, when he threw the third no-hitter in franchise history.
“It’s just one of those things that you try to keep going as long as possible,” Thielbar said. “But you can’t base your pitching on that. Just keep throwing all your pitches, change speeds, move it around. Hitters tend to get themselves out if you get ahead of them.”
Ron Gardenhire said Thielbar’s newness is paying off for the Twins.
“We haven’t had to go through the league twice with him yet. People don’t know him. That’s an advantage for a pitcher,” the manager said. “He comes right at you. He’s slinging the ball. He hides the ball, got a nice little breaking ball. He can cut his fastball, throws a slider, just looks like to me he hides the ball very well.”
Walters bound for AAA
P.J. Walters is back where Gardenhire hoped he would end up — at Rochester, awaiting another call if the Twins get short on starting pitching again.
Walters cleared waivers Monday without being claimed by another team, and he chose to accept the Twins’ assignment to Class AAA rather than declare free agency. He’ll report to the Red Wings on Tuesday, and will start a game later this week.
“We were disappointed that we had to make the move in the first place, because we like the guy an awful lot,” Gardenhire said. “I think he knows he’ll get a chance again. We’ve given him the opportunity a couple of times. We like him, we were hoping it would work out that we would keep him, and fortunately for us, he wanted to stay.”
Walters is no longer on the 40-man roster, and the spot will remain vacant for the time being, assistant general manager Rob Antony said. The Red Wings will make a corresponding roster move Tuesday to make room for the righthander, who went 2-5 with a 5.95 ERA in eight starts with the Twins.
• Reliever Rich Harden will throw live batting practice later this week, and the Twins believe he is close to pitching in Gulf Coast League games, Antony said. It’s still possible, he said, for Harden to pitch in the majors this year. “It’s been positive — no lat soreness, no forearm [tightness], no anything,” Antony said. “If he can pitch an inning or two, have three or four good outings, progress on, maybe move him up to Triple-A — that’s the hope, that he could come up and we could see him face hitters.”
• Oswaldo Arcia returned to the Twins lineup Monday, after missing Sunday’s game because of a bruised finger and sore knee.
• Class AA pitcher Alex Meyer, out since June because of shoulder soreness, will begin a throwing program around July 16, Antony said, “ and hopefully be able to start pitching in games early August. He’s going to end up missing two months.”