Caleb Thielbar was pitching for the St. Paul Saints in 2011 when the Twins signed him. He quickly rose through their minor league system and spent much of 2013 and 2014 in the Twins bullpen before losing his job early last season. Now he’s back with the Saints — and once again living in Randolph, where he was a high school star — while hoping to rekindle his big league career. The Saints began their season this past week, and Thielbar chatted with the Star Tribune’s Michael Rand.
Q In retrospect, how do you reflect on your rise from Saints to Twins?
A I was just having a lot of fun. And when you’re pitching well, it’s a lot of fun. It’s hard to say, to be honest. Moving up level to level, there were so many good people. It wasn’t as stressful as it could have been.
Q What’s the best part about being in a major league uniform?
A Just facing the best every single night. You have to have your best stuff every single day. The preparation that goes into that is something else. It’s just cool. You’re going out and playing in front of potentially 40,000 or 50,000 people every night. Not everybody gets to do that. And I got to do that.
Q The life of a reliever seems kind of precarious. Have you found that to be the case based on your rise to the majors — including a 1.76 ERA in 2013 — and then your demotion in 2015?
A I guess I knew that every day there was special. I was worried about it in 2014 toward the end of the year when I wasn’t pitching as well. In 2015, I had no illusions that I had a spot locked down. I knew how 2014 had gone and knew there was a new staff and had to prove myself all over again, and I just couldn’t do it for whatever reason.
Q After playing your first go-round at Midway Stadium, what do you think of that new Saints ballpark?
A It’s awesome. It’s obviously going to be the nicest place we play all year, and we’re lucky we get to play there half the time. It’s going to be a fun time. Playing for the Saints is some of the most fun I’ve had playing baseball.
Q In addition to enjoying this time, is the goal to stay sharp and catch the eye of another major league team?
A I think that’s the goal for everyone playing there. A lot of us have been in big league organizations at one point or another, so people know who we are. It’s a matter of having the right eyes on you on a given night and getting an opportunity again.
Q How is your velocity — and is it enough to catch an eye again?
A If I can get back to throwing 90 or 91 [miles per hour], touching 92, I think there’s going to be an opportunity. I’ve been there so far this year at 91 and 92, so I know it’s in there.
Q Watching from a distance, but still a not too far away distance, how much of a surprise is this start by the Twins?
A Oh, I don’t know. They’re still young. The reality is a lot of the guys they’re going to be counting on in the next couple of years are still in their first or second years. They say it takes, what 1,000 at-bats before you become the hitter you’re going to be. They’re nowhere near that. It’s just going to take time. They have a lot of young arms in the system, too. They’re going to be just fine. I know fans get impatient, but it’s a process.