NEW YORK – Tyler Kinley’s summer internship is going quite well, thanks for asking, and he sees a big payoff ahead from all the on-the-job training he is receiving.
“Failure is something that can teach you so much,” Kinley said earnestly, one day after retiring only one of six hitters he faced in Yankee Stadium. “So for me, oddly enough, I wasn’t too fazed about last night. Didn’t really knock me down too much. It showed me a couple of things I need to work on, but at the end of the day, it made me even more convinced that my stuff is way too good to have that kind of thing happen.”
The Twins remain convinced, too, which is why they are content for the moment to devote a roster spot to their research-and-development department. Kinley, who under MLB’s Rule 5 has to remain on the major league roster all season or be offered back to the Marlins, has thrown 102 pitches this season, 50 of them 95 miles per hour or faster, and that sort of heat keeps the team captivated.
In the front office, anyway. Managers tend to focus on that precious roster spot, and how it could be devoted to this season rather than future promise. Paul Molitor has carried two previous Rule 5 picks in the past, both similar pursuits of relievers who could light up radar guns. Righthander J.R. Graham lasted all of 2015 with the Twins, then was sold to the Yankees six weeks into the 2016 season. Justin Haley stuck around until mid-July last year before a roster crunch allowed the Red Sox to reclaim him.
Before Molitor arrived, however, Ryan Pressly became a Rule 5 success story in 2013, and he’s still a valuable arm in the Twins’ bullpen.
So is the effort worth it? “To be determined,” Molitor said somewhat skeptically. “I just don’t think you can predict how it’s going to go throughout the course of a summer. The fact that we’re still holding on — we must still see some light there, and we’re trying to see if it can happen.”
Kinley is certain he is improving, even though Monday’s ugliness inflated his ERA to a hide-your-eyes 24.30. “I know the results might not show it, but I am definitely building on what I’ve learned,” the 27-year-old reliever said. “Learning in the big leagues is way more valuable than dominating somewhere in the minor leagues. I don’t think it hurts my confidence, because I see what works, and I know it can work. It’s just that this is the highest level, and you can’t make many mistakes.”
His biggest mistake, Molitor said, is not trusting that fastball enough. “He came out last night and popped a couple of really good fastballs right out of the chute, and then he started trying to trick people a little bit more. [Then] he started getting behind and had to groove fastballs,” the manager said. “I just don’t know how much he trusts what he does, in terms of using his power yet. There are times when you think he’s getting close, and then kind of goes backwards a little bit.”
From head to toe
Byron Buxton, who fouled a ball off his left foot Sunday during a rehab outing with the Class A Fort Myers Miracle, was sidelined for a second day because the foot remains swollen. “We were hoping it was minor, but it’s turned out that there’s enough swelling and discomfort where it’s limited him,” Molitor reported. “We’re going to try to do some things with a toe to relieve some of the pressure.”
If all goes well, the Twins hope Buxton — who’s on the disabled list because of migraines, which subsided last weekend — can play in a few extended spring training games, leading off each inning so he gets plenty of at-bats. When might Buxton rejoin the Twins? “Probably Friday, at the earliest,” Molitor said.
Tyler Duffey reported to the Twins, giving Molitor what he hopes is a legitimate multi-inning reliever, but struggled in giving up three earned runs in two innings during Tuesday’s 8-3 loss to the Yankees. No Twins reliever has pitched more than two innings in a game this season, and with the Twins in the midst of a 26-games-in-27-days stretch, he fears wear and tear on the bullpen.
“Fine by me,” said Duffey, who did not allow an earned run in 11 innings at Class AAA Rochester. “I was going long outings, and I feel good and fresh. Even having thrown 50 [pitches], I feel really good. … Hopefully, I’ll just be useful.”