The first warning sign for the Twins came during the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader. Righthander Phil Hughes could not throw the ball where he wanted, and he experienced a dip in velocity on his fastball.
He was not made available to the media after the game, as initially expected, and the club announced he was getting treatment. That was the next sign that something was wrong with Hughes.
The Twins confirmed, splitting two games with Kansas City at Target Field, that they placed Hughes on the 10-day disabled list because of shoulder discomfort. Hughes, speaking after the second game, said he began having problems in the second and third innings Sunday that were reminiscent of his injury-plagued 2016 season. He was limited to 59 innings last season after having surgery to treat thoracic outlet syndrome.
“It’s very frustrating,” said Hughes, 5-3 with a 5.74 ERA this season. “I hoped a lot of this was behind me. To have this sprout up again is frustrating, but hopefully will have an easy answer and be able to bounce back from it.”
Hughes will be examined further by Twins doctors and might, as a precaution, seek a second opinion.
In four innings, he gave up five runs on six hits and two walks with four strikeouts. He gave up three home runs in a game for the third time since joining the Twins before the 2014 season. He threw at least 20 pitches in the second, third and fourth innings as he battled discomfort.
“When you are trying to get a little extra something on it, the command suffers, and that is what I was experiencing,” he said. “When your velocity is dipping and you are trying to muster whatever you can, obviously you are not going to put the ball where you want.”
Hughes has a 9.22 ERA over his past three starts. He also has given up at least four earned runs in six of his nine starts.
Gibson is back
The Twins named righthander Kyle Gibson their starter for Monday’s series opener at Baltimore.
He was sent to Class AAA Rochester on May 4 with order to stop nibbling and throw more strikes. In two starts with the Red Wings, he was 0-2 with a 2.92 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 12 ⅓ innings. He struck out 10 in his last outing May 15. With the Twins needing a starter after two doubleheaders in four days, they decided to give Gibson a chance to prove he has changed.
“In talking to people and reading reports, there’s been some improvement in some things we thought were affecting his ability to compete at a little higher up here,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “Some of it was overall strike percentages, some of it is getting ahead of hitters.”
After pitching impressively during spring training, Gibson was 0-4 with an 8.20 ERA before being demoted. He will join the club in Baltimore and face the Orioles, weather permitting.
Fiddle with the middle
Miguel Sano has settled in as the Twins’ No. 3 hitter, kind of like the way the White Sox used Hall of Fame power hitter Frank Thomas. They knew he would take good at-bats and be a swing away from a 1-0 lead.
What has challenged Molitor is deciding who will bat after Sano.
While Sano has batted third 30 times this season, five Twins have batted in the cleanup spot. Joe Mauer has batted cleanup 16 times, the most of the group.
But Molitor continues to search for the right fit at the spot so opponents won’t just pitch around Sano. Max Kepler batted fourth in both games of the doubleheader.
“As Miggy’s start has been as solid as it has, to protect him the best way you can every day is part of what we are trying to do,” Molitor said. “You can see it change a little bit here and there, whether it is Kep or Joe or Kennys [Vargas]. Against lefthanded starting pitching, it could be somebody else.
“It is one of the key parts of your lineup, obviously, and you try to put the right people in there when you can.”