The Twins need an extra starting pitcher for their doubleheader Friday in Chicago. Anthony Swarzak announced his candidacy for that vacancy Saturday, first on the mound, and later in the clubhouse.
“I would love the opportunity to start. I will never let that go,” the 27-year-old righthander said after dominating the Astros for three innings, giving the Twins the opportunity to rally for a second night in a row and claim a 6-4 victory at Target Field. “Maybe I should, for my own good.”
Maybe he should for the team’s good, at least for the moment, or so goes his manager’s thinking.
“I just said the same thing — that guy’s really throwing the ball well for us,” Ron Gardenhire said of the prospect of Swarzak pitching his way out of the bullpen. “But a lot of times, when a guy does that you leave him where he’s at, because he’s eating huge innings for us. ... He’s so valuable with what he’s doing now.”
And if he can’t be a starter, maybe he could be assistant pitching coach. Swarzak said he offered a little advice to Twins starter Kyle Gibson after his second ugly start in a row, a four-run, nine-hit outing over three innings that put the Twins in a 4-3 hole.
“I told him he’s had six or seven starts here, and the other team hasn’t beat him once. It’s him beating himself,” said the bullpen’s long man/wise man. “When I got called up in ’09, I kind of did the same thing he’s doing now. He’s just trying too hard, forcing the issue a little bit. You want to do good so bad, it kind of works against you sometimes. I was just telling him to kind of get his head out of the way a little bit and let his stuff take over.”
You know, like the Twins relief corps is doing. After Swarzak retired nine of the 10 hitters he faced, giving up one walk to go with five strikeouts, Brian Duensing, Casey Fien and Glen Perkins all pitched a scoreless inning apiece. Counting the one run surrendered over seven innings during Friday’s extra-inning victory, the Twins bullpen has given up two hits in 13 innings and posted a sparkling 0.69 ERA during the series.
“It’s huge for the team, it’s huge for morale in the bullpen, to be able to come in and throw up zeros when the team needs us to,” Swarzak said. “We all kind of feed off each other down there.”
Houston’s bullpen — well, righthander Lucas Harrell — didn’t fare quite as well. After Astros starter Eric Bedard gave up three runs in six innings, Harrell allowed the Twins to bat around in the seventh. Brian Dozier doubled home the tying run, Ryan Doumit looped a sinking liner to center to put the Twins in front and Harrell walked Oswaldo Arcia with the bases loaded, forcing in a third run.
It made up for a far-from-perfect performance for Gibson, who gave up his early 3-1 lead back during a three-run third.
“He just didn’t command the strike zone again,” Gardenhire said of the rookie righthander, who threw only seven first-pitch strikes to the 19 hitters he faced, and went to a three-ball count six times. “It’s all about locating, and working ahead in the count. ... [Pitching coach Rick Anderson] had him watching Swarzie attack the strike zone.”
These days, there’s no better teacher.