Derek Falvey said as the 2017 season opened that he and Thad Levine wanted to carefully evaluate Twins players before making changes. It appears they are ready now.
In three days, the new chief baseball officer and general manager have demoted Kyle Gibson to the minors, jettisoned Danny Santana and, on Saturday, designated Michael Tonkin for assignment. All three players have worn Twins uniforms for the past four or five seasons, but none could survive subpar starts to in 2017, especially with the Twins hanging around the top of the AL Central standings.
"I wasn't surprised. It's frustrating, but it happens," said Tonkin, whose ERA climbed to 6.55 Saturday after he gave up two hits, three walks and a solo home run in an 11-1 loss to Boston. "I'm obviously not throwing great."
His disappointment likely matches the Twins', considering the lanky 27-year-old righthander has long been projected as a potential closer. Tonkin had 38 saves at Class AAA Rochester, and last year he struck out 80 batters in 71⅔ innings with the Twins. But he never developed the consistency the Twins hoped for, owning a career 4.49 ERA in five major league seasons.
"He's a guy who takes the ball," manager Paul Molitor said. "He hasn't had a chance [to pitch] significant innings very often, but he's provided value along the way. I just encouraged him to look at this as an opportunity. There's a lot of frustration, I'm sure, in the moment."
As with Santana, the Twins have a week to trade, release or place Tonkin on waivers. The Twins will announce Tonkin's replacement Sunday.
Rucinski steps up
Nick Tepesch's short start meant the Twins bullpen — and, for the second time this season, catcher Chris Gimenez — had to absorb a heavy load of innings. Righthander Drew Rucinski handled more than his share.
Rucinski, who last appeared in the majors in 2015 with the Angels, gave up two run-scoring hits with his first three pitches, but then settled down and pitched the Twins through the third, fourth and fifth innings, giving up only one more run.
"They kind of ambushed me there," Rucinski, 28, said of his Twins debut. "But then I started mixing it up a little bit more and started to get outs."
His manager was grateful. "He was able to milk some innings for us," Molitor said, "which was important for us to find a way to get through the game."
After Tonkin issued two walks, Gimenez made his fifth career appearance as a pitcher in the ninth and retired Xander Bogaerts and Andrew Benintendi with his "fastball," clocked at 65 miles per hour.
Brian Dozier had his sprained left ankle examined again, with an X-ray and ultrasound test just to make sure. They found no structural damage, a big relief to the Twins second baseman.
The ankle, which buckled as he fielded a ground ball in the sixth inning Friday, is swollen considerably, though, and Dozier won't play Sunday. With an off day Monday, he is hopeful of returning to action by Tuesday against the White Sox.
Center fielder Byron Buxton might play Sunday, after saying he felt "10 times better" than a day earlier. He passed another concussion test, his third in three days after colliding with the outfield wall while making a catch, and his headaches are gone.
• Rochester's game with Pawtucket was rained out Saturday, pushing Jose Berrios' start to Sunday. The 22-year-old righthander is considered a strong candidate to join the Twins rotation this week.
• Falvey was in Nashville on Saturday to watch Vanderbilt righthander Kyle Wright strike out 13 in a 2-1 extra-inning loss to Missouri. Wright, a potential candidate for the Twins' overall No. 1 pick in the June 12 draft, gave up one run over nine innings.