CHICAGO — The moment didn't last long. Three pitches, perhaps 90 seconds in total. Joe Ryan actually made contact with the second pitch from Kyle Hendricks, gamely bunting it but foul, then swung and missed a sinker.
And with that, Ryan suffered the 1,914th — and perhaps final — strikeout by a Twins pitcher at the plate.
If the National League adopts the designated hitter rule next season, widely considered likely as part of the negotiations over baseball's new collective bargaining agreement, Twins pitchers' annual lark or chore, depending on your perspective, will disappear. The rule was used in the NL last season to reduce the risk of injury to pitchers after the long COVID delay to the season, and reportedly has significant support among owners to make the rule universal.
Rocco Baldelli is no owner, but he's all in favor, too.
"Bring on the DH," Baldelli said. "Honestly, I'm perfectly good with that move. I know there are a lot of fans out there, a lot of baseball people that will miss the National League game in a big way. It's the way that many have grown up watching and enjoying and loving baseball, but where we're at today, I personally believe the right move is to just bring the DH in all the way around."
So these events now look like milestones: The last Twins pitcher to get a hit was Kenta Maeda, back on Aug. 3. The last to drive in a run was Ervin Santana on Aug. 2, 2017, in San Diego. The last with an extra-base hit was Santana, who hit a bases-loaded double in San Francisco on June 9, 1973, and the last triple was hit by Johan Santana in New York on June 19, 2007.
And the last home run? Well, funny thing about that — the Twins haven't had a home run from a pitcher since the DH rule was adopted, going longer without one than any MLB team. Jim Kaat's blast in Cleveland on June 11, 1972, is the most recent.
"It's pretty eye-opening if you've never done it," Twins starter Griffin Jax said after striking out without swinging the bat on Tuesday. "I mean, I've seen like seven pitches in my adult life."
Oh, it's still possible for a Twins pitcher to hit occasionally, but it'll be a real rarity. From 1973, when the AL adopted the DH rule to stimulate offense, to 1997, when regular-season interleague play was adopted with no designated hitter in NL home parks, only three Twins came to the plate, each time in extra innings when the team was out of players. And it happened again in a 2008 game in the Metrodome, when Bobby Korecky became the last Twins pitcher to get a hit at home.
"There's going to be a handful of pitchers who have good swings, and probably have helped themselves and their teams win a lot of games over the years.I get that that very small group will be quite disappointed if this does happen," Baldelli said. "But you've got guys going out there and trying to hit that are less than prepared to do so.And you start to lose your best pitchers due to any kind of injury related to swinging the bat, it just becomes less than worth it."
Buxton hits, Polanco sits
Byron Buxton "was pretty sore" after being hit on his left foot by a pitch Tuesday night, so he was not in the Twins' starting lineup Wednesday. But he was healthy enough to hit, and contributed a pinch-hit double in the seventh inning.
Meanwhile, Jorge Polanco also was missing from the lineup for just the second time since Aug. 27 as he battles an unspecified illness.
"He's been sick for a while, has been pretty rundown and has had some issues sleeping and resting," Baldelli said. "He's had trouble breathing because of congestion, but that's not an issue in and of itself."
Polanco was the only Twins starter not to collect a hit on Tuesday, and it made Baldelli take action.
"He didn't look great last night. He didn't look like himself," the manager said. "It was really visible when he was at the plate. It just looked odd."