CINCINNATI — When Tyler Naquin singled and Eugenio Suarez walked to open the bottom of the ninth inning on Tuesday, bringing the winning run to the plate, Alexander Colome says he remained positive, unfazed.
That wasn't always the case this year.
"It's been a test, a real tough test for me mentally. Early in the season, I kind of put negative thoughts in my mind because of everything that happened," the Twins reliever said Wednesday through an interpreter. "But I came back to being my old self now. I know how to close out games. I know how to get out of it."
He did, getting a popup, a strikeout and a game-ending groundout to finish off his third save of the season, and his first since April 7, in a 7-5 victory over the Reds.
Those are shocking numbers for a pitcher who is just two years removed from a 30-save season, and who led the American League with 47 in 2017. But Colome, who signed in February for $5 million plus a $5.5 million mutual option for next year (or a $1.25 million buyout), will get more of those ninth-inning chances, though probably not all of them, down the stretch, manager Rocco Baldelli said, especially with Hansel Robles and Taylor Rogers no longer in the picture this year.
He told the veteran closer as much in a meeting on Sunday, a development that mildly surprised Colome, but "the conversation was good. And last night, it felt really good" to convert a save, after blowing three of them in often-spectacular form since the last one.
His ERA remains at a career-worst 4.58, and he's given up six home runs, three of them which turned a lead or a tie into a loss, so he would probably have to turn into Mariano Rivera for two months to get the Twins to pick up that option for 2022. But he's grateful for their patience, he said.
"I know that through the rough patches, [the Twins] were there for me and tried to help me tweak some things to fix my pitches," he said. "They've helped me."
Now he'd like to help the Twins get through a terrible season that he knows he's partly responsible for.
"The team is going through a rough time. And I'm going through a rough time. But things can change," Colome said. "We have to stay together, and salvage what we can out of the last two months."
Sir Elton, please
Over the past three years, snow, rain and a players protest have all caused the Twins to play doubleheaders in Detroit. Now it's Elton John's turn.
Major League Baseball released the 2022 schedules for all 30 teams on Wednesday, and it includes a modern-day rarity: a five-day All-Star Break in mid-July, with a planned doubleheader to open the second half on July 23.
The reason? Sir Elton will stage a mega-concert at Comerica Park on July 18, and the grounds crew anticipates needing the extra time to prepare and repair the playing surface.
That's only one of the unusual wrinkles contained in next year's set of 162 games, a season that will open against the White Sox on March 31 in Chicago. The Twins' home opener is April 7 against, for the third time in five years, the Seattle Mariners.
In addition to their traditional home-and-home series against Milwaukee, the Twins will play NL West teams in interleague play, with road trips to Arizona (the Twins' first since 2011), San Diego and Los Angeles. The San Francisco Giants, the only MLB team never to play at Target Field, will visit on Aug. 26-28, and the Dodgers and Rockies will visit as well.
All weekday night games at Target Field will be at 6:40 p.m. for the first time. The Twins will play 20 home games in August, and end the season Oct. 2 in Detroit.
- The Twins added another potential bullpen candidate on Wednesday by claiming Astros righthander Ralph Garza Jr. off waivers. Garza, 27, made his MLB debut in May and posted a 4.09 ERA in nine appearances totaling 11 innings. He also had a 1.26 ERA at Class AAA Sugar Land. Garza has been assigned to St. Paul.
- Baldelli leaves Cincinnati with a treasured souvenir: a Jerry Garcia bobblehead. The Reds gave them away during Tuesday's Grateful Dead promotion and Reds manager David Bell, knowing Baldelli is a fan of the long-ago band, sent one over as a gift, along with some "Cherry Garcia" ice cream.