FORT MYERS, Fla. – The uncertainty surrounding Tim Stauffer has begun to rise, mostly because his velocity hasn't. But his manager believes it's nothing to worry about yet.
Kyle Gibson pitched the Twins to a 5-0 lead over the Cardinals on Sunday, but the bullpen couldn't hold it. Stauffer surrendered four runs (and ballooned his spring ERA to 15.00), Caleb Thielbar and Casey Fien one apiece, and the Twins' three-game Grapefruit League winning streak was halted by a 6-6 tie.
Stauffer, who was signed to a $2.2 million free-agent contract in December, gave up six hits and a walk and retired only seven hitters, the third straight outing in which he's been hit hard. More notably, he has yet to throw a pitch at 90 mph. But Paul Molitor said the Twins were warned about exactly this problem — and they've seen it before. Stauffer, the manager said, shares that trait with former Twins closer Joe Nathan, who was frequently hit hard in the spring until his fastball returned.
"He's had to really, really use his off-speed pitches a lot because his velocity hasn't come to the table yet. He's kind of had a history of that … of not hitting his velocity numbers until late in the spring," Molitor said. "Our scouting reports [noted] his velocity in spring training, so it's no big surprise. I've seen video of him at 90-91 in the past."
Molitor said he and pitching coach Neil Allen will discuss Stauffer's role Tuesday, meaning he may be refocused on a bullpen role, rather than trying out for the starting rotation.
Gibson, meanwhile, keeps cranking out ground balls. He limited St. Louis to two hits over four innings, striking out four, and has a spring ERA of 2.00.
Brian Dozier clubbed his second home run of the spring, a two-run shot to the left field berm, and Kurt Suzuki added a two-run double. The game ended when Eduardo Nunez tried to score from second on James' Beresford's two-out single, but he was thrown out on a play that Molitor said he would have challenged had it been a regular-season game.