Fernando Romero has started only three games at Class AAA Rochester, pitching a grand total of 21 innings. The Twins believe that might be enough.
The Twins’ top pitching prospect will start Wednesday against Toronto, manager Paul Molitor said Monday, an aggressive promotion but one the team believes he can handle.
“There’s something good about the process of having [prospects] going step-by-step, for most guys,” Molitor said. “But every once in a while, you get exceptions.”
Romero, 23, didn’t give up so much as a hit in four spring training appearances, striking out eight in eight innings. With Phil Hughes opening his 2018 with two subpar starts, the Twins decided to give Romero a chance. Hughes will move to the bullpen.
“We feel we need to get him into a better place to be able to help us,” Molitor said of the veteran, who has given up six runs in seven innings. “And running him out there right now doesn’t seem like the best interests for him or the team.”
Romero, who missed most of the 2014 and all of the ’15 seasons after elbow surgery, has a dominating fastball. “We know that he’s got high-end stuff. It’s fun to watch him pitch. Not lacking in confidence,” Molitor said. “He’s gotten off to a decent start, throwing 93-98 [miles per hour]. His fastball is alive, and he’s really gained a lot of confidence in his changeup as a swing-and-miss pitch.
“The slider has probably been his most inconsistent pitch, which he needs, especially for a chase pitch to righthanded hitters. I don’t think it’ll too big for this kid, the moment. We’re all looking forward to it.”
Miguel Sano tried to run in the outfield Monday, “and it didn’t go particularly well,” Molitor said. A stint on the disabled list is becoming more likely for the third baseman.
Sano felt tightness in his left hamstring Friday, and he hasn’t played since.
“He’s not making a lot of progress,” Molitor said. “I was hoping by Day 3 we’d be seeing [him] a little bit better.”
With only four bench players, having someone unable to play can quickly become a problem. By backdating him on the disabled list to Saturday, Sano would be eligible to return next Tuesday in St. Louis.
Meanwhile, center fielder Byron Buxton, already on the disabled list for 18 days now, seems stalled in his progress toward a return. His planned running session was canceled Monday, though he did put some weight on his fractured left big toe on a body-weight machine in the clubhouse.
The toe remains swollen, and the pain returns “once I put it in the shoe,” Buxton said. “It’s pretty much what you can tolerate and what you can’t. If it starts feeling bad, I sit down for a little bit.”
He appears at least a week from being able to play — and he’s been absent long enough that another rehab assignment might be in play.
In the meantime, Buxton is trying to retain whatever timing he can at the plate. He stood in while Jake Odorizzi threw a bullpen session Monday, and Molitor said Buxton might try to hit off a tee in a batting cage.
• The Twins had hoped that David Hale might choose to remain in their system after clearing waivers over the weekend. But the 30-year-old righthanded reliever, claimed last week from the Yankees, opted to become a free agent.
• John Curtiss was called up to replace fellow righthander Tyler Duffey, who was sent back to Rochester. Curtiss, who finished out the ninth inning Monday, has 17 strikeouts in 9⅓ innings at Rochester this year, posting a 2.89 ERA.