The Twins have two chances Thursday to beat the first-place Cleveland Indians for the first time at Target Field this season — one of them involving their latest pitcher to make his major league debut.
With Wednesday night’s game rained out — the fourth postponement at Target Field this season and the second involving the Indians — the Twins called up righthander Aaron Slegers, a fifth-round pick in the 2013 draft, as their 26th man for a day-night doubleheader Thursday. The 6-10 Slegers will start the second game, which is scheduled to begin at 6:10 p.m.
With the Twins also playing a doubleheader against the White Sox on Monday in Chicago, they now have to play seven games over a five-day stretch — and they will need a different starting pitcher for each game.
Slegers, 24, will be the 32nd pitcher used by the Twins this season, adding to their club record, and he will be the 10th Twins player (and ninth pitcher) to make his major league debut. Slegers, who throws a good sinking fastball, was 13-4 with a 3.18 ERA in 21 starts for Class AAA Rochester. In 130⅓ innings, Slegers has walked 27 and struck out 97.
It won’t be his Target Field debut, however. Slegers pitched there for Indiana in the 2013 Big Ten tournament.
In his most recent start for the Red Wings on Saturday, Slegers gave up two runs over 7⅓ innings on eight hits with no walks and six strikeouts. He needs to be added to the 40-man roster, but the Twins have some flexibility on that end, with only 38 players on it as of Wednesday.
Thursday’s first game will feature Wednesday’s scheduled starters, Kyle Gibson for the Twins and Carlos Carrasco for the Indians. In Game 2, Slegers will face Cleveland lefthander Ryan Merritt. Merritt, whose wife is from Minnesota, also started a makeup game June 17 at Target Field, which Cleveland won 9-3; that was Merritt’s only other major league start this season. The Indians are 8-0 at Target Field this season.
The Twins have spent the season trying to find some continuity in their starting rotation, but injuries and ineffectiveness have forced them to scour the waiver wire and reach as far down as Class AA Chattanooga for pitching help. Even so. they have remained in the running for a playoff spot; they trail Cleveland by six games in the AL Central Division and are one game out of the AL wild-card race.
“Trying to hold our own here in a couple different races,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said Wednesday. “Give ourselves a chance.”
But Wednesday’s postponement throws another wrench into their starting pitching plans.
Between the doubleheaders, the Twins play host to a three-game weekend series with Arizona. Jose Berrios, who was originally scheduled to start Thursday, has been pushed back to Saturday. Ervin Santana will start Friday vs. the Diamondbacks and Bartolo Colon on Sunday.
As for Monday’s doubleheader, the Twins have not announced anything. Here’s where they will either dip down into the minors again — or pull a magic rabbit out of their hat.
Righthander Dillon Gee could be used in one of the games Monday. But it’s likely that he will be needed out of the bullpen during this busy period. Rookie lefthander Dietrich Enns, who made his major league debut last Thursday at Milwaukee, had been scheduled to start Sunday against Arizona, but his status was unknown as of Wednesday night.
So the Twins might have to look toward Rochester again. Lefthander Stephen Gonsalves, the organization’s top pitching prospect, pitched Tuesday for the Red Wings and could be summoned to face the White Sox on an extra day of rest. He has made two starts since being promoted from Chattanooga, going 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA.
Or the Twins might have something else up their sleeves. Stay tuned, because this could get really interesting.