When a ballgame drags on late into the night, drastic measures are necessary. Sometime during extra innings Tuesday, Willians Astudillo was contacted at the Rochester Red Wings’ team hotel in Columbus, Ohio. And once the Twins won in 17 innings, Sean Poppen was awakened by a 3 a.m. phone call.
“Dead asleep. I’m glad I picked up,” Poppen said about 14 hours later in the Twins clubhouse at Target Field. “I got my clothes on and walked downstairs, then called my wife and parents. And then freaked out — it was kind of a delayed response, I guess.”
The righthander was told he is now a big leaguer — and the only fresh arm in the Twins bullpen after the Tuesday night marathon. He has a 95-miles-per-hour fastball, a 1.55 ERA in Class AAA, and a chemistry degree from Harvard, the first Crimson alum to play for the Twins since outfielder Mike Stenhouse in 1985.
“He’s a guy that’s going to attack with good, quality stuff,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said of Poppen, who has struck out 73 batters in 57⅔ minor league innings this season. “Not a guy that’s going to go out there and be nibbling or anything like that.”
Poppen, a 19th-round pick in the 2016 draft, has been a starter in the minors, but gave up three runs in four innings working out of the bullpen in the Twins’ 9-4 loss to Boston on Wednesday.
“I approach starting with the same mentality that I would approach relieving. I’m not a guy that’s going to hold back,” Poppen said. “So fundamentally, it’s not really that much different, except maybe more high-pressure situations.”
He reached his wife in Rochester and his parents in Iowa, where they were visiting relatives. With assorted aunts, uncles and cousins, Poppen said he had about a dozen family members in the stands to see his debut.
It all took him by surprise, Poppen said. He was unaware of the Twins’ 17-inning slog, and wasn’t expecting a call-up.
“I came from Columbus, which is a really nice Triple-A stadium,” he said. “And then I got here, and it’s like, well, that’s not nice at all.”
The Twins made room for Poppen on the 40-man roster by moving lefthander Adalberto Mejia to the 60-day injured list, then promoted him to the active roster when Blake Parker left the team to attend to an undisclosed family situation.
“I talked to Blake this morning — he’s doing OK, his family is doing OK,” Baldelli said of Parker, who was put on the medical emergency list. “We could see him soon. What he has going on now is significantly more important than anything going on here.”
Time to heal
During Tuesday's lengthy game, Marwin Gonzalez developed tightness in his right hamstring, a condition he’s felt on occasion for much of this month. Gonzalez was removed from the game, and the Twins decided the time had come for him to let his leg heal.
“It’s a mild strain, so we’re going to be OK,” Baldelli said. ‘Marwin’s a guy that plays through a lot of stuff. If he can’t go, there’s a reason.”
Gonzalez was placed on the 10-day injured list and Astudillo — who responded to his June 7 demotion to Class AAA by going 20-for-38 (.526) with three homers and 11 RBI — was recalled.
Baldelli immediately penciled in the utility player at second base, where he has started only one other big-league game. Astudillo then helped turn three doule plays Wednesday night.
“He’s a pretty good infielder. We’re not making this up as we go,” Baldelli said. “He gets a lot of work out there at second base and he’s a very competent second baseman. It’s also a good opportunity to get our freshest players out there and get them playing.”
• In discussing the aftermath of the longest game in Target Field history, Baldelli said he had special respect for Mitch Garver, who caught nine different pitchers and all 17 innings. “That was an incredibly impressive performance,” Baldelli said of Garver. “Rarely is a guy forced into action like that. … Physically, the human body can only handle so much. I thought it was pretty amazing what he did last night.”
• The victory was the first of Zack Littell’s career. “Not exactly how you pictured it, but it’s something I’ll remember,” Littell said of his two-inning scoreless outing, which began around midnight. “I’m just glad I contributed, that I didn’t just sneak in on someone else’s [win].”