ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. – The Twins placed righthander J.R. Graham on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday because of right shoulder inflammation after he reported soreness following his outing the night before.
That enabled the Twins to activate Blaine Boyer from the 15-day disabled list after he recovered from a sore left elbow.
Graham gave up one run in two-thirds of an inning Tuesday — enough to get his first major league victory — but his four-seam fastball averaged a season-low 93.9 miles per hour. He has averaged 3-4 more miles per hour in other outings, and the dip in velocity suggested something was wrong.
After a night of sleep, Graham still felt discomfort and alerted team trainers.
“The only thing I noticed as of late was his velocity numbers have been down the last few outings,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “We really hadn’t heard anything as of issues. My thought was that the guy has been a starter [in the minors]. He’s been on a different routine this year, having to adapt to something different. He’s heading into a September, which he hasn’t done before.”
The Twins hope Graham will be ready in two to three weeks and contribute down the stretch. A Rule 5 pick in December from the Braves organization, the Twins had to take the good and the bad from Graham. They are required to keep him on the 25-man roster all season or offer him back to Atlanta.
In 34 games, Graham was 1-1 with a 5.15 ERA.
“It’s mostly been an upward trend,” Molitor said. “There have been games and appearances where it’s gone back a bit.”
Boyer is 2-4 with a 2.98 ERA. He had an effective run in which he posted a 0.38 ERA over 22 outings from April 17 to June 3, but he has a 5.06 ERA over his past 12 outings. Historically tough on righthanders, Boyer has been tough on lefthanders this season, holding them to a .180 batting average while righthanders are batting .309.
Likes the vets
Unless a youngster has big-time talent, it sounds as if Molitor prefers to go with veterans in his bullpen down the stretch.
When the Twins traded for Neal Cotts, rookie A. J. Achter was sent to Class AAA Rochester. Lefthander Ryan O’Rourke is the least experienced reliever on the team, and it’s not close.
As the Twins remain in the AL wild-card race, Molitor wants experienced arms in tight situations. He still might be stinging from the Aug. 18 game in New York when he had to bring in O’Rourke and Graham in tough situations because fatigued veteran relievers were unavailable.
“I just think, at this time of the year, when you get in situations in close games and you’re trailing or even or behind, your comfort level of bringing guys in who it’s not their first rodeo is just a better feeling,” Molitor said. “If you have options who are fresh and more experienced, that’s probably the way you want to go most times.”
Righthander Casey Fien’s two scoreless innings Tuesday were only his latest during a run in which he’s pitched 8 ⅔ scoreless innings. Over his past 17⅓ innings, he has posted a 1.04 ERA.
In recent seasons he was a bullpen workhorse as a late-inning setup man. But he’s been on the disabled list this season because of a shoulder strain, then wasn’t as effective once he got healthy.
But something has clicked for him lately, and Fien has been getting big outs and showing his old fire. Fien said he met with pitching coach Neil Allen and bullpen coach Eddie Guardado recently to fix his delivery.
“Every time I wasn’t going toward the plate, I was falling off to the side, so everything was flat,” Fien said. “So my fastball was flat instead of having some depth. And my cutter was flat. That’s why I was getting hit hard by lefties. I couldn’t get any lefties out. I started focusing on going towards home plate. Ever since then it’s been pretty good.”
• Miguel Sano and Brian Dozier checked out the Ted Williams Museum and Hitters Hall of Fame, which is located at Tropicana Field, on Wednesday. Sano viewed exhibits honoring Roberto Clemente, Jim Thome, Willie Mays and others. But, while walking around, he spotted one display and responded, “The boss!” It was Molitor’s exhibit. Sano and Dozier posed for a picture next to it, and Sano also posed next to Tony Oliva’s exhibit.