Lefthander Devin Smeltzer takes the ball on Friday is what will be his biggest test in six major league appearances: Facing an Indians team trying to run down the Twins in the heat of the pennant race.
No one with the Twins expects to see him sweat.
One thing that has stood out about Smeltzer in his brief stints with the Twins is that he hasn’t been phased by pitching in big-league parks and trying to execute pitches to get out of jams. He has mostly thrown strikes and has exuded confidence on the mound.
Smeltzer uses meditation to calm himself before games. He will go out to the bullpen before his games and meditate among the murmurs of the crowd and whatever game-day operations has dialed up for a pregame program.
“I think it’s certainly helped him,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “Truthfully, if you believe it helps you and your confidence level is high and you feel good and you’re doing something or have a particular routine, I think there’s certainly a benefit to it.”
Smeltzer’s routine allowed him to rise to the majors after starting the season at Class AA Pensacola before moving to Class AAA Rochester. He has a 2.28 ERA in five games with the Twins, but his one hiccup came at Cleveland on June 4. He held the Indians to three runs over the first six innings before giving up back-to-back homers to Jake Bauers and Roberto Perez in the seventh, ending his day.
The Twins look for Smeltzer to fare better in his second meeting with the Indians. They certainly feel that he has the temperament to do so.
“That’s kind of that even keel that you see that he just goes out there and treats throwing the ball at this level like anywhere,” catcher Jason Castro said. “I think that is something he uses to his advantage. That’s pretty impressive.”
Back at Pensacola
Righthander Brusdar Graterol, after recovering from shoulder problems and pitching in two games for the Gulf Coast League Twins, has been assigned to Class AA Pensacola. That’s where Graterol was 5-0 with a 1.89 ERA in nine starts before coming down with right biceps tendonitis and being shut down.
He pitched for the Blue Wahoos on Thursday night, giving up an infield hit while striking out three in 1⅔ innings.
His return to Pensacola comes at a time where he could impress the Twins enough to get a look before the end of the month. Graterol could help the Twins as a flame-throwing reliever and possibly pitch his way onto the postseason roster. It would be quite a jump, for he’s only 20 years old but is ranked as the 58th best prospect in the game by MLB.com.
In two games for the GCL Twins, he struck out four batters in three innings of work, with his fastball reaching 101 miles per hour in each appearance.
• Righthander Randy Dobnak arrived at the ballpark less than an hour before the first pitch. He was delayed at Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport because he had to wait for missing luggage to arrive on a later flight. Dobnak went 11-3 with a 2.02 ERA in stops at Class A Fort Myers, Pensacola and Rochester thanks to a sinking fastball he uses to get plenty of ground ball outs. He takes the place of righthander Kohl Stewart, who returned to Rochester after pitching in one game.
• Lefthander Ian Krol has been suspended and placed on the restricted list at Rochester and is expected to miss the rest of the season. Krol, who was signed on June 18 after being released from the Reds, had a 5.23 ERA in 18 appearances for the Red Wings. He last appeared in the majors in 2018 with the Angels, pitching in one game. The Red Wings have not announced why Krol, 28, was suspended, but indications are that it is for a rules violation.