PORT CHARLOTTE, FLA. – The Twins have been waiting to see the real Tommy Milone.
“I’m about as anxious to see him as anybody,” Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said as the Twins and Rays warmed up before Friday’s exhibition game at Charlotte Sports Park.
Milone, whom the Twins traded for from Oakland in July, was terrible down the stretch last year. Then, during the offseason, it was learned that he had a benign tumor in his neck that needed to be removed. He didn’t use that as an excuse, though.
Friday, Milone tossed two scoreless innings, giving up one hit, in a game the Twins eventually lost 2-1. Milone, who used only his fastball and changeup, threw 21 pitches, 15 for strikes.
“Down, down,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said, referring to where Milone’s pitches were. “Nice changeup. Got in on a couple righties. It was a nice first start for him.”
Milone doesn’t throw very hard, but he has good movement and he can paint corners when he’s going good. He was 0-1 with a 7.06 ERA in six outings with the Twins last season, so he might be getting overlooked in the race for the fifth starter’s role.
Don’t overlook him.
Milone, 28, is 32-23 with a 3.98 ERA in 86 career major league games, the best track record of any of the candidates for the role. And he was in Oakland’s rotation before the Athletics acquired All-Star righthander Jeff Samardzija and someone had to go to the minors.
He is also used to battling to win spots in rotations. He knows how to prepare for a season while showing a team enough to take him north.
“All it is, is that you are going to be pushing yourself a little bit harder,” Milone said. “You’re trying to win that one spot and sometimes it can get the better of you and you could go out and try too hard. You have to sit back and realize that if I go out there and if I perform I can be the pitcher I know I can be — and they want me to be — and then I have a shot.”
The Twins’ only run came on back-to-back doubles by Eddie Rosario and Max Kepler in the second inning.