Devin Smeltzer said he wasn’t much of a gamer until he spent three and a half months without baseball. But while waiting out the shutdown in Florida since mid-March, the Twins lefthander found art imitating life.
He was able to play video games as … himself.
“I got a PlayStation, and I was playing ‘The Show’ a lot,” Smeltzer said Wednesday from Target Field. “I think I’m a little bit better in the game than in real life. Watching 94s [mph] pop up on the board ... haven’t ever seen that before.”
After pitching in 11 games, including six starts, for the Twins last season, Smeltzer had an outside shot during the spring at a rotation spot, especially since Rich Hill was recovering from surgery and Michael Pineda had 36 games remaining in his suspension. Although he now appears to be behind Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi, Homer Bailey, Kenta Maeda and Hill, Smeltzer said Wednesday he’s “always attacking and going for a role. I want to be part of this.”
Smeltzer, 24, is a cancer survivor after having surgery and chemo when he was 9 years old for a tumor near his abdomen. He consulted with an oncologist about concerns should he contact COVID-19.
“He said my health, I’m not at high risk. I’m in great shape, lungs are good, everything is good,” Smeltzer said.
Working on his slider was a top priority during the layoff, and he said away from the competition, he felt a lot of improvement.
“Honestly it makes things a lot easier when you’re not facing big-league hitters because it’s not result-driven,” he said. “I can sit down with the Rapsodo numbers, with the Trackman numbers, and really break down video on what I’d have to do to make that pitch better.
“I know the numbers are going to tell me if a pitch is gonna be successful or not, so I don’t have to go out and face the Cardinals in a spring training game and work on things, and then worry about getting outs and worry about getting better at the same time.”
Smeltzer has “Catch Cancer Looking” T-shirts to help cover out-of-pocket expenses for pediatric cancer patients. The 2019 shirts have an image of Smeltzer with a goatee and glasses; on Wednesday, he was sporting a full beard.
“I was kind of joking around with my wife — it might be a good marketing tool to have different facial hair every year and then have to change the shirts and everyone will have to buy new shirts for the facial hair that year,” he said.
Twins pitchers are using the visitors clubhouse during training camp, while the hitters are in the home clubhouse.
“It is very weird, because you only see them when you sit down to have a meal in the Champions [Club],” right fielder Max Kepler said. “You kind of say hello to them like you haven’t seen them in weeks, but then you see them out on the field and you get to say hello briefly.
“ I have a lot of friends … that are on the pitching side of things — hitters do mesh with pitchers, too.”
• Pitchers had the edge in Wednesday’s intrasquad game. Both Jose Berrios and Randy Dobnak pitched four scoreless innings. “Finally we are free again,” Berrios said. “We all were waiting for this moment to be back on the field playing baseball.”
• The Twins Clubhouse store will reopen Friday and be open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Capacity will be 40, with masks required and only credit card transactions.