Daily dispatch from Fort Myers
Kinley making an impression
CLEARWATER, FLA. – It’s not hard to notice Tyler Kinley. The “99” miles per hour that registers on the pitch-speed scoreboard catches your attention, as does the occasional weak swing produced by a hitter — Maikel Franco on Monday — looking for two-strike heat but getting the 90-mph slider instead.
And those aren’t even the attributes that have stood out to his manager so far.
“I like everything about the kid so far,” Paul Molitor said after Kinley displayed his high-heat repertoire for an inning in the Twins’ 4-3 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies. “He’s an extremely hard worker, he’s an early arriver, doesn’t seem to get too affected by the good days and the bad days, always comes back with a good attitude. So there are a lot of things that are real positive.”
The Twins have three weeks to decide whether they are positive enough to devote one of their eight bullpen spots to Kinley, 27. As a Rule 5 pick, he must remain in the majors or be offered back to the Miami Marlins, who probably would take him back.
That’s because triple-digit fastballs are increasingly coveted these days, and the Twins don’t yet have one of their own.
“When he gets ahead [in the count], it’s hard to cover a 90-mph slider and a 98-mph fastball,” Molitor said. “He’s an interesting character. That arm’s pretty big. We’re just trying to keep bringing it along.”
The Twins committed two errors behind Kinley on Monday, leading to an unearned run. But Kinley appeared unfazed, Molitor said.
“He should have been off the field five minutes earlier than he was, and he kept throwing it in there,” Molitor said. “The slider was a little bit better today. He’s been a little hot and cold so far, but today was a good day. We didn’t support him very well.”
Another long haul
Four times in the past six days, Molitor, his staff and a couple dozen players have trudged into the clubhouse shortly after 7 a.m., in order to catch a bus. Five Grapefruit League opponents on this spring’s schedule are located 125 miles away from Fort Myers, and the Twins have visited four of them in less than a week.
It’s just part of training in Florida, but some years are worse than others. “Last year took its toll, I think, throughout the spring,” Molitor said. This year, “there just happen to be a lot of the further ones compacted together.”
The bright side is that only one trip of more than 100 miles remains. Next Monday, they head to Tampa to face the Yankees. And getting the long drives out of the way early also comes with the benefit of having plenty of players available, since no cuts have been made yet.
Checkup for Santana
Ervin Santana was in New York on Monday to have his middle finger examined by Dr. Charles Melone, the surgeon who removed calcium deposits last month. “Hopefully, he comes back a few pounds lighter,” Molitor joked, referring to Santana’s cast. If the cast is removed, Santana hopes to begin throwing exercises to strengthen the finger this week.
The Orioles on Tuesday make the first of two visits to Fort Myers, where they will face Twins lefthander Adalberto Mejia, along with bullpen fixtures Trevor Hildenberger and Taylor Rogers.