Tyler Duffey was standing around in limbo Wednesday — well, it was the chair in front of his locker, actually — when Paul Molitor walked by.
“He just said, ‘You’ve got Sunday,’ ” Duffey recounted of his manager’s vote of confidence. “That’s all I need to know.”
And with that, Duffey’s roster spot was confirmed, his rotation role solidified and the Twins’ faith in his ability redoubled. For at least five days.
“To be honest, we did have some discussions about how to proceed, with his struggles as of late,” Molitor said. “But in the end, we decided to put him back out there in New York.”
That there was any doubt — Molitor wouldn’t commit one night earlier, immediately after Duffey’s three-inning, six-run drubbing — is remarkable, considering how strong his pitching was one month earlier. Four starts into the season, the Houston native owned a 1.85 ERA and appeared primed for a breakout season.
Instead, Duffey is the one who appears broken. He’s made seven starts since then, and his ERA has climbed in every one, the mathematical consequence of allowing at least four runs in each. His ERA, headed to Yankee Stadium, is now 6.18, and though his manager has endorsed him for now, Sunday’s start has the feel of a last-chance tryout.
Good luck sleeping this week, right?
“Not at all. If I do what I’m capable of, I’m fine,” Duffey said. “It’s part of the job — I’m not a guaranteed guy, so you never know what will happen. But I know I’m a better pitcher than this.”
That just adds to the frustration, of course. Duffey spent Wednesday afternoon watching video with interim pitching coach Eric Rasmussen, and he spotted a flaw in his delivery. It’s a subtle thing, Duffey said — his recent focus on striding more directly toward the plate has inadvertently sped up his motion, he said, leaving his arm “dragging” when he releases the ball — but he hopes it makes a big difference in the location of his pitches.
“Baseball is so big on timing, and it seems like such a little thing,” Duffey said. “It really is, just fractions of a second. But I’m learning how big that is. The hard way, unfortunately.”
Twins’ top pick visits
Alex Kirilloff toured Target Field on Wednesday, met everyone from Molitor to General Manager Terry Ryan to the team’s broadcasters, and stood behind the cage during batting practice, chatting with players from both teams. On Thursday, his professional career begins.
Kirilloff, the 18-year-old outfielder from Plum, Pa., will undergo a battery of physical exams and then sign a contract with the Twins that will pay him a bonus of $2,817,100.
After a news conference, the Twins’ No. 1 pick in the MLB draft will catch a flight to Tennessee. The rookie-level Elizabethton Twins open their season Friday.
Kirilloff’s parents and family accompanied him on the trip, and his father, a Pirates fan, particularly enjoyed meeting Bert Blyleven, who starred for Pittsburgh three decades ago. David Kirilloff was wearing a vintage “M” Twins jacket that he purchased shortly after Minnesota’s victory in the 1987 World Series.
• Molitor decided to keep Ricky Nolasco on a normal four days of rest, so the righthander will start Thursday’s game against the Phillies. Tommy Milone’s return to the majors will be bumped back a day, to Friday in New York.