Aaron Thompson is insane. He freely admits this.
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results,” the lefthander reasons. “And I’m telling you, that’s what I do.”
Thompson needs, and expects, different results because he doesn’t feel the quality of his pitches are any different than what they were in April, when he was a revelation, giving up four hits in his first 11 innings. “It’s maybe better,” Thompson said of his velocity and movement.
June hasn’t been better, though; after giving up four runs without retiring a Cubs batter on Sunday, his ERA for the month is 14.54. He has faced 23 batters in June and retired 13.
The reason, Thompson figures, might simply be the randomness of baseball. He’s made minor adjustments, but doesn’t feel his awful June is necessarily because of how he’s pitching. “Everyone focus on results, but we have to stay aware of the process, and that hasn’t changed,” he said. He gave up two runs, for instance, when Kyle Schwarber, fooled by a breaking pitch Sunday, reached out and poked it over the shortstop’s head. “If that’s a double play, we’re not having this conversation,” he said.
Thompson’s pitching coach agrees, to a point. “Mechanically, he’s the same. Mentally …” Neil Allen said, shrugging at the thought. “I think he’s trying to do too much right now. ‘Trust your stuff, the same way you did at the beginning.’ ”
Allen said he believes Thompson may be overthinking when he’s on the mound. “Pointing at his head, the coach said, “You give up a few hits and you start getting people swimming around up there and they start telling you things. It’s his confidence, that’s all I care about. Mechanically, he’s fine, but I think people are starting to swim around in there.”
Manager Paul Molitor was more blunt, saying: “He’s playing a lot of mind games with himself right now, questioning throwing one pitch. Fastball, slider — whatever one he picks seems to be the wrong one. They’re not always bad pitches, they’re just finding ways to get hits.”
Alex Meyer has given up only one earned run in 16⅓ innings since moving to the bullpen at Class AAA Rochester a month ago. That’s an 0.55 ERA; batters are hitting .197 against the bullpen version, as opposed to .325 when he was a starter.
So is the top pitching prospect now a reliever permanently? General Manager Terry Ryan isn’t ready to say. Meyer could move back to the Red Wings rotation, he said; Ryan also hinted that the 25-year-old could join the Twins bullpen.
“He could come up here as a reliever; he could come up as a starter,” Ryan said. “There’s more opportunity for him right now to come up in the pen.”
Starting pitchers are more valuable than relievers, because they pitch 200 innings rather than 75. But the most important thing, Ryan said, is that he pitches well, in any role.
“He wasn’t succeeding much, so we’re trying to get him right. We’d rather have starting pitching, but sometimes you have to step back to go forward, and it looks like it’s worked,” Ryan said.
• Byron Buxton’s promotion to the leadoff spot was the most notable change Monday, but the bottom of the order was different, too: Kennys Vargas batted eighth and Eduardo Nunez ninth. It’s the first time Nunez has batted last in the order, and just the second time Vargas has batted so low.
• No players were offered contracts after the Twins’ open tryouts on Sunday, Ryan said, “but we saw some players we’ll keep an eye on.”
• Ricky Nolasco’s orthotics for his painful right ankle are expected to arrive Tuesday. “We may have to push back when he can start throwing again,” Ryan said.