CLEVELAND – The Twins are training all their power-of-positive-thinking vibes toward Alexander Colome, but it's hard to say it's working so far.
Rocco Baldelli and pitching coach Wes Johnson each met with their erstwhile closer before Tuesday's game, and both insisted they were encouraged, even excited, about what they saw, especially when Colome threw a bullpen session to try some new ideas.
"Physically, he feels great. Actually, his stuff is in a pretty good spot right now," Baldelli said. "He truly does just want to get back on the mound and he wants to pitch."
But when Baldelli gave him that chance a few hours later, Colome's performance felt like a step backward.
He struck out Franmil Reyes on an outside cutter that umpire Phil Cuzzi gave him the benefit of the doubt about. But then he ricocheted a 95-mile-per-hour cutter off the bill of Josh Naylor's helmet, an impact that sounded more damaging than it turned out to be.
Colome followed up by walking three of the next four hitters he faced, forcing in a run before Baldelli removed him.
The result wasn't what Baldelli wanted, but the situation was. After absorbing three blown saves and three losses in April, after giving up two game-deciding home runs and posting a 6.75 ERA, Colome might be better served avoiding trying to protect a ninth-inning lead for a while, the manager conceded.
"We're going to see Alex continue to pitch in the types of situations like we saw today. We have to build him back up," Baldelli said after the 7-4 loss to Cleveland. "We're going to get him in some spots where there's some lower-leverage games, earlier in the game, and let him pitch. I think that's a big part of the answer there, and that's how you build back confidence."
Actually, the Twins had hoped his confidence wasn't an issue. When Colome arrived at Progressive Field on Tuesday, he immediately sought out Johnson with a to-do list of things to work on. The pair headed to the bullpen, and Johnson said he was impressed.
"We had a great bullpen [session]," Johnson said. "The message is, 'You're Alex Colome. You're really good. Let's not forget that.' "
Johnson said the ideas they tried were promising, and that Colome has not let his horrible start affect him. "A guy like him, you're not coming in to reinvent the wheel," Johnson said. "You just need to tighten up the lug nuts."
The soreness in Byron Buxton's right knee subsided Tuesday, and he was back in the lineup. Buxton was happy about that, but a little annoyed about the on-and-off pain.
"I thought it went away four weeks ago, but it hasn't," he said. "I'm assuming it's something I will have to deal with throughout the season, or until it gets a little better."
The center fielder, who hit his seventh home run Tuesday, said he utilized every treatment the team's medical staff could come up with to quell the knee pain. Dry-needling, a procedure similar to acupuncture, seemed to help, he said, as did the laser therapy, and all the rest.
• Miguel Sano worked out in St. Paul on Tuesday, Baldelli said, and "is running fairly close to 100 percent," his hamstring injury apparently healed. That means the first baseman will begin doing baseball workouts at full speed, but it's too early to say when he will return, Baldelli said.
• Max Kepler and Kyle Garlick have cleared all protocols and are eligible to be reinstated from the COVID injury list. They will work out in St. Paul, too, and rejoin the team later this week, Baldelli said. J.T. Riddle, on the other hand, "is in a different boat," Baldelli said, and the team isn't certain when he will be able to work out again.
• The Twins will take the long way when they visit Cleveland next month, traveling first to Anaheim, Calif., on May 20 to make up two COVID-canceled games with the Angels by playing a doubleheader.