A few extras from the highest-scoring Twins game of the season:
Paul Molitor didn’t yank Tyler Duffey out of the Twins’ rotation on Tuesday. But he admitted he’s thought about it.
The second-year righthander, who appeared headed toward a breakthrough season one month ago — his ERA was 1.85 on May 15 after his first four starts — suddenly is at risk of losing his every-fifth-day job. It’s now seven straight starts in which Duffey has allowed four or more runs, and this fizzle against the Phillies, when he gave up six runs and only retired nine batters, may have been more alarming than any of them.
Last season, when Duffey missed his target, he gave up hits. Now, he’s giving up home runs — three of them on Tuesday, and 11, tied with Phil Hughes and Ervin Santana, on the season.
“I was hanging breaking balls, which is not normally something I do. Obviously when that happens, I’m doing something wrong,” Duffey said. “When I get too quick, my arm drops a little bit and it’s hard for me to get on top of the ball. And when I start missing up, my stuff flattens out.”
And so do the Twins’ chances. Duffey was spared his seventh loss only because the Twins’ bats exploded. But Minnesota still allowed Philadelphia to score more runs Tuesday (10) than the Phillies did during their entire six-game homestand last week (9).
Whatever the cause, his manager apparently is considering other options for this weekend in New York; Duffey’s next turn would be Sunday.
“We’ve talked about how we want to go forward in a lot of areas here, everything from Miguel Sano’s return to [the role of] Trevor May. We’re always looking at those things,” Molitor said. “I’m probably not [ready] to finalize a decision on how his next his next turn is going to go as of yet. I haven’t talked to Terry [Ryan, the Twins’ general manager], so I’m not sure where his feelings are now.”
There aren’t many options if the Twins want to make a change. Pat Dean isn’t eligible to return in time to pitch this weekend, because players demoted to the minors must remain there for 10 days. Jose Berrios is the only other starting pitcher on Rochester’s roster — but he is scheduled to pitch Wednesday in Columbus.
So it seems likely that Duffey will get another chance, in Yankee Stadium, to turn around his strange season.
“If we get him back out there,” Molitor said, “we’re going to have to figure a way to get him better.”
Speaking of May, Molitor said the injured reliever threw in the bullpen Tuesday and it went well. The righthander will throw another session on Friday, and then the team will make a decision about sending him on a rehab assignment. May has been out since June 10 with back spasms.
Kurt Suzuki wasn’t surprised that a lot of people assumed he was washed up as his season-opening slump kept getting longer. After all, he had only five RBIs in April and just six in May, and as late as May 28, his batting average dipped below .200.
He got frustrated with his start. But he realized that it wouldn’t last forever.
“I’ve been around a few years now, and I understand the ebbs and flows. You don’t necessarily want to [slump] at the start of the year like I did, but you’ve just got to keep grinding,” the 32-year-old catcher said.
Suzuki had never collected more than three RBIs in a game for the Twins, and had only once managed as many as five in a game during his nine-year career. Until Tuesday, that is, when he doubled twice, singled and smacked a 380-foot home run into the left-field planters.
“I feel good now,” Suzuki said of his resurgence, a .365 month of June which has lifted his season average to .265. “I feel warm — it’s not 10 degrees outside anymore. … It’s just baseball. Sometimes you find that comfort zone.”
Molitor had complimentary words for rookie Max Kepler and his well-timed, well-executed bunt in the third inning, his first career bunt single.
“It’s nice to see a guy who can slow it down. He gets behind the ball, he doesn’t rush to get out of the box, he focuses on making a good bunt rather than being too quick,” Molitor said of Kepler’s bunt, which loaded the bases with nobody out in a game the Twins were losing, 6-4.
Kepler noticed Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco playing back for a double play, and decided to try the play. “In a worst-case scenario, we advance the runners,” Molitor said. “But he put it in a good spot and was able to create a big inning.”
The Twins scored four runs in that inning to take the lead for good.