PHILADELPHIA – All it took was Jake Odorizzi being hooked in the first inning, then Martin Perez failing to go three innings, for the Twins to sound the alarm after Friday’s 10-4 loss to the Phillies.
On Saturday, the Twins selected the contract of righthander Chase De Jong to help out a suddenly taxed bullpen. De Jong came over last season from Seattle in exchange for Zach Duke and eventually made four appearances for the Twins, going 1-1 with a 3.57 ERA.
De Jong, 25, was in major league camp this spring but was reassigned to the minor league camp on March 16.
“I thought he threw the ball well this spring,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “We talked a lot about locking in on some of the things that we talked about [with him] last year, bringing him into the offseason and into spring training, and he did that very well. I think he’s in a good place and ready to go and be ready to help us.”
To make room for De Jong, the Twins designated first baseman Tyler Austin for assignment. The club has 10 days to deal him, try to slip him through waivers and send him to the minors or release him. The third option is the least likely, as Austin — acquired from the Yankees last July as part of a trade for righthander Lance Lynn — has power-hitting potential but doesn’t have a path to steady playing time, not after the Twins acquired Nelson Cruz and C.J. Cron in the offseason.
Cron is the unquestioned starter at first base. The Twins also have Marwin Gonzalez, Mitch Garver, Willians Astudillo and Ehire Adrianza who can play first. And the injured Miguel Sano can play there as well.
“Tyler, truthfully, I really do wish that we had the opportunity and at-bats for Tyler because I believe in him,” Baldelli said. “I believe in him as a person and as a player. He’s a quality, quality righthanded hitter who I think can clearly hit major league pitching and if we had the opportunity for him here in those at-bats, I think we would have seen that.”
It was always going to be a numbers game with Austin, who hit .236 but with nine home runs and 24 RBI in only 37 games with the Twins, including 1-for-4 with a double this year.
The Twins were faced with decisions in the coming weeks. They were going to have to make room for a 12th pitcher later this month once the slew of off days ended and Perez was placed in the rotation. They also have another decision to make when Sano rejoins the team. Relievers Matt Magill, Addison Reed and Gabriel Moya all are on the 10-day IL, so the Twins have a lot of roster decisions still coming.
Rogers on point
Taylor Rogers got two groundouts in the eighth inning Saturday with the Twins holding a 3-2 lead. Then Bryce Harper reached on an infield hit, Rhys Hoskins walked and Odubel Herrera squibbed one 30 feet for another infield hit. The bases were loaded without the ball leaving the infield.
“It was not like they were laser beams,” Rogers said, “so I was still pretty confident.”
He showed it on the next batter, as he got Cesar Hernandez to ground out to first. It was a big stop by Rogers to keep the lead, and the Twins eventually won 6-2.
Rogers stayed cool, but the Twins dugout erupted. “It’s a big point in the game,” Baldelli said. “Like you said, the atmosphere is good here right now. We’re playing against a good team. We had to make plays today. We had to make pitches and we needed big hits to win this game and our guys did that. They did all of that.”
• The back-to-back home runs by Max Kepler and Astudillo marked the first time the Twins have done that since last Sept. 16, when Austin and Johnny Field did it.
• Byron Buxton stole second base in the third inning Saturday, his 31st consecutive stolen base going back to 2017.
• Lefthander Adalberto Mejia pitched in back-to-back games for the first time in his major league career.