BOSTON – Tommy Milone didn’t think he deserved to be sent to the minors last month, and he wasn’t happy when it happened. “I might have had a little bit of a chip on my shoulder,” the lefthanded starter said. “Going down, I was obviously a little bit frustrated. But I used that to my advantage.”
Maybe someone should kick him in the shins Thursday, because Milone clearly likes pitching angry. Upset to be in Class AAA Rochester, Milone put together a five-game streak of effectiveness — 38 ⅔ innings, a 0.70 ERA, three walks, 47 strikeouts — that got him back to the majors at the first opportunity.
“The message that they gave me going down is that I need to attack hitters. I agreed with that,” Milone said after arriving at Fenway Park. “It’s something I was maybe getting away from a little bit here, trying to nibble the corners a little bit. So I made it a point to attack hitters and do it often, and it’s worked out so far.”
Now he’ll try it against major leaguers again. Milone will start Thursday’s game against the Red Sox, helping ease the pitching shortage caused by Wednesday’s doubleheader. That pushes Kyle Gibson’s start back to Friday, in the opener of a three-game series with Milwaukee at Target Field.
The Twins aren’t certain how they’ll make room on the roster for Milone, pending Ricky Nolasco’s throwing session in the bullpen Thursday. If Nolasco has not fully recovered from the sore right ankle that forced him out of Sunday’s start, he’ll go on the disabled list and Milone will join the rotation. If he’s OK, Nolasco will start Saturday, and the Twins must option another player, presumably a relief pitcher, to Rochester, and they’ll be unable to recall him for 10 days.
That means it’s possible that Milone will only be back in the majors for one start. You know, unless he’s the same pitcher who won back-to-back International League Pitcher of the Week awards last month, the guy who pitched seven shutout innings in Chicago during the season’s first week. “I think I’ll be anxious to be out there and show what I can do,” Milone said, “what I’ve done lately.”
Using a lefthander in Fenway Park is appealing, manager Paul Molitor said, even though Milone’s experience in this park is dismal — in two starts, both with the A’s, Milone has pitched a total of 8 ⅔ innings and allowed 13 runs, a 13.50 ERA. But that’s in the past, Milone said, especially the way he’s pitching now. “I went down, worked on some things, attacked the zone, did exactly what they wanted me to do,” he said. “I feel like that’s actually helped me, probably, in the long run.”
Molitor felt Danny Santana and Brian Dozier each made mental mistakes on a double play in Wednesday’s first game. Santana was on third base and Dozier on first when pinch hitter Joe Mauer smashed a hard grounder at first baseman Mike Napoli.
Napoli tagged first base and quickly threw to second, where Dozier was tagged out as he slid into the base, ending the inning. Because it wasn’t a force, however, Santana’s run would have counted had he touched the plate before Dozier was tagged.
It didn’t happen.
In hindsight, Dozier should have stopped halfway to allow time for Santana to score, Molitor said. And “I don’t think Danny ran as hard as he could,” the manager said. Santana disagreed, however, saying there was “no chance” to beat the tag.
Dozier thought he had a chance to beat the throw and keep the inning alive.
“Your instincts take over,” Dozier explained. “Down 6-1, you don’t want to give up outs for a run. I thought I could haul to second, and hopefully me or Joe beats it out. I probably should have held up.”
• Outfielder Oswaldo Arcia, who missed almost all of May after straining the flexor muscle in his right hip, was activated by the Twins, but immediately optioned to Rochester. Arcia is 0-for-11 in four rehab games, so the Twins have decided to extend his stay. It’s the second season in a row that Arcia has been optioned after completing a rehab assignment.