TAMPA, FLA. – Tommy Milone doesn’t need a final audition for the Twins rotation.
“He’s earned the right to be part of that,” manager Paul Molitor said Sunday, rendering the lefthander’s Tuesday start against the Red Sox merely a final tuneup rather than a do-or-die pitch-off with his job at stake.
Milone, who entered camp one of five candidates for two spots in the rotation, seized the job by making himself the most reliable, drama-free pitcher on the staff. He started four major league games, pitched 15 total innings and gave up only four runs for a 2.40 ERA.
“He didn’t put any doubt in our minds, and that’s what you come in here to see if you can accomplish,” General Manager Terry Ryan said. “All he did was go out and execute about every time he pitched.”
As a reward, Milone will start for the Twins at Kansas City on April 8, Molitor said.
“When he’s throwing his pitches where he wants to — it’s a key for anybody, to some degree, but for him more so, given his repertoire of pitches,” Molitor said of Milone, who went 9-5 with a 3.92 ERA with the Twins in 2015. “And he’s been spot on. He hasn’t really had a hiccup or a blemish along the way. It’s been pretty solid from the start.”
Just in case
The Twins are comfortable, Molitor and Ryan said, that they have the makings of an effective bullpen with the pitchers in camp. That said, “we’re keeping an eye” on the waiver wire this week, Ryan said, in case a reliever who might be useful is cut.
“You have to be aware of potential guys who might be thrown out there. We’re down to four people for two spots, roughly,” Molitor said. “I have a little concern [about having] someone with length out there, people who have the ability to pitch two or three innings. I think about how we will cover ourselves in that regard.”
That’s a concern that would be amplified if Ricky Nolasco winds up in the rotation as the No. 5 starter and Tyler Duffey is sent to Class AAA Rochester. If Duffey wins the job, Nolasco could serve as long reliever.
• Righthander Phil Hughes recorded 18 outs in Sunday’s 5-2 victory over the Yankees. Half were on balls hit to second baseman Brian Dozier, who caught three pop-ups, a line drive and three grounders, one of which he turned into a double play.
• Juan Centeno and Darin Mastroianni were both in the lineup for the Twins, even though they were assigned to the minor leagues Saturday. Mastroianni went 1-for-2 with a walk and two runs scored, leaving his spring batting average at .414; Centeno went 0-for-4, dropping his average from .600 to .475.
• Molitor said he will use his regular-season lineup Tuesday and Wednesday in Fort Myers, and Friday and Saturday in Washington, as the Twins prepare for next Monday’s opener at Baltimore.