DETROIT – Brent Rooker's diving catch at the left field warning track Monday made a lot of highlight shows. But it came with a price.
"He landed kind of heavy. It looked like a pretty good hit," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "It took him a second to get up. Ultimately, he said he was OK, [but] the onset [of soreness] could be a day or two after."
Rooker was scheduled to be in the lineup on Wednesday, but his neck was so sore, he was scratched from both the game and, due to the shortage of rested arms in the bullpen, the active roster too by being put on the 10-day injured list.
"We had a few guys we wanted to stay away from," to protect against overuse, Baldelli said, so he wanted another reliever in case Kenta Maeda's start was a short one. They chose lefthander Brandon Waddell, who allowed only one run and two hits in his final 7⅔ innings of spring training, and placed Rooker on the 10-day injured list to make room.
Maeda lasted six innings, so Waddell wasn't needed. It's not clear yet whether the Twins will stick with a nine-man bullpen for now; they could summon another outfielder, Alex Kirilloff or Trevor Larnach, from the alternate site in St. Paul, or simply wait for Josh Donaldson to return.
Waddell was not on the 40-man roster, so the Twins cleared space for him by moving minor league righthander Edwar Colina (elbow irritation) to the 60-day injured list, sidelining him until June.
Colome works OT
The bullpen workload — six pitchers totaling eight innings in the first two games at Detroit — factored into another unexpected move by Baldelli, too. The manager had never asked anyone but Taylor Rogers to preserve a narrow lead in both the eighth and ninth innings, and the most recent time was in August 2019.
But when he called for Alexander Colome to take over for Hansel Robles at the start of the eighth inning, it was with a two-inning save in mind.
"We were going to give him an opportunity to do that. He's not afraid of a two-inning outing," Baldelli said. "If he's well-rested and throwing the ball the way he wants, he can certainly handle that."
Apparently so. He got Robbie Grossman looking to start the eighth, gave up a single to Willi Castro, then battled Miguel Cabrera for nine pitches before inducing a double-play grounder. Two more strikeouts in the ninth, the last a cutter that Jonathan Schoop swung through to end the game, and Colome had the second two-inning save of his career, joining one from 2016.
"He did a fantastic job," Baldelli said.
Thielbar in command
The last player on the Twins roster to get into a game made it worth the wait. Lefthander Caleb Thielbar pitched two innings Tuesday, facing seven batters and striking out five of them, four on swing-and-miss third strikes.
His secret? Command of all his pitches — and that includes his slider, for a change. He fixed it by making it break less, of all things.
"I feel like I can actually throw it for a strike this year," said Thielbar, who threw 20 strikes in his 30-pitch outing. "Last year, it was a little bit too big. This year, I'm throwing it a little harder and with a little less break. It still has good horizontal break, but it's not so big where I'm having trouble finding the zone with it anymore."
The change has impressed his manager, who sees Thielbar "not being satisfied with anything he's doing. He's always tweaking things, always trying to find a way to get better," Baldelli said. "That slider is going to be a weapon, and with the good, riding fastball that he has, and the curveball we know he has, those are good pitches, and they're going to get hitters out."
For all the sliders though, Thielbar stuck to the slow curve against Cabrera. Does that seem dangerous, tossing 70-mph pitches at an aging but still dangerous slugger?
" He basically just hit fastballs off me last year, so at this point, why keep feeding him that?" said Thielbar, who gave up a single and a lineout to Cabrera in 2020. "He'll adjust to it again, because he's one of the best hitters of all time. It's a cat-and-mouse game with that guy."