FORT MYERS, FLA. – It appears that Tommy Milone has the early momentum in the race to be the No 5 starter in the Twins rotation.
The lefthander was efficient on Wednesday, tossing three scoreless innings in the Twins’ 5-2 loss to Tampa Bay.
That’s five scoreless innings for Milone in two Grapefruit League outings as he attempts to prove he is not the pitcher the Twins saw late last year, when he posted a 7.06 ERA in 21 innings.
There’s a long way to go, and Milone is in a battle with Trevor May (who made his spring debut Wednesday), Mike Pelfrey and Alex Meyer for the fifth spot in the rotation. But Milone is showing good control, pitching inside effectively and setting hitters up well so far.
Does being the only lefthander in the fight provide an advantage?
“I feel like, as an organization, you want the five best guys that you think are going to complete the rotation,” Milone said. “Whether it’s me or another rightly, it doesn’t matter. I have to do my job. I’m going to go out there and get outs.”
Milone opened with two strikeouts in the first inning, then stranded Corey Brown at second in the second inning. He gave up a one-out double to Hak-Ju Lee and a bunt single by Kevin Kiermaier in the third but threw a breaking ball to strike out Logan Forsythe and got John Jaso to strike out to end the inning. Both of Milone’s outings have come against Tampa Bay.
Milone said he was going to mix in his curveball more after throwing nothing but fastballs and changeups in his debut.
“It felt good,” he said. “It’s been feeling pretty good in bullpens and playing catch with it. To throw it for strikes and throw it down with two strikes and get that strikeout was good, something where they won’t just sit on my changeup.”
The Twins offense couldn’t muster much against Rays starter Jake Odorizzi and the relievers. The Twins loaded the bases in the second inning but scored just one run.
Tampa Bay got a tiebreaking two-run homer by the lefthanded-hitting Lee in the seventh off Caleb Thielbar, then added two in the ninth. The Twins’ other run came in the seventh on Chris Herrmann’s long homer to right.
But the Twins came away impressed with Milone.
“It was another good day,” manager Paul Molitor said. “He’s using his fastball plenty for a guy throwing it 86, 87. His deception is good enough.”