Wearing a Twins cap and jersey Wednesday for the first time, Tyler Jay let it sink in that he’s now a professional baseball player.
“It’s real,” he said, “but at the same time I know it is not an easy road to get to the majors. You have a lot of work to do, so it is kind of the beginning for me.”
Jay’s journey can begin now that he has signed with the Twins. Jay will receive a bonus of $3,889,500, which is the amount recommended by Major League Baseball. He will head to Fort Myers, Fla., this week to take part in the annual post draft minicamp, then will be assigned to Class A Fort Myers of the Florida State League.
No rookie league ball for Jay, 21, who starred at the University of Illinois as the closer.
“He’s got good stuff,” Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said. “He’s got four pitches and he throws them over the plate. He ought to be able to compete in the Florida State League. The average age in that league is about 23. He would be a little younger than the average, but we think he can compete there.”
The Twins will have Jay work out of the bullpen in his first season of professional baseball. In 30 games for the Illini, Jay posted a 1.08 ERA and 14 saves. In 66 ⅔ innings, Jay walked only seven batters and struck out 76. The Twins are reluctant to stretch him out because of his workload this season.
“We are going to gauge exactly where we are at the end of the summer,” Ryan said.
That raises the possibility that Jay could zip his way to Target Field, although it’s a long shot. But with his control, a 94 miles-per-hour fastball and sharp breaking ball, he could move through the system this season and give the Twins a late-season option.
After this year, the Twins could decide to develop him into a starter.
“Hopefully I throw well wherever I am going and just prove my abilities, however long it takes,” Jay said. “[Do] what I need to do to help the team out.”
In addition to Jay, the Twins also have signed fifth-round pick Alex Robinson, a righthander from Maryland.
Byron Buxton was on the field four hours before game time Wednesday. He chased down fly balls hit by outfield coach Butch Davis. Buxton worked on playing balls hit off the wall in right-center field. When early batting practice started, Buxton was in center field, tracking balls.
He wanted to be prepared for his Target Field debut, one for which he has waited since the Twins selected with the second overall draft pick in 2012.
“Very special,” Buxton said during an afternoon news conference before he went out for early work. “Especially not being on the field since 2012. This is one of the dreams I wanted to do, to go out there and play center field with the Twins one day.”
The Twins officially cut ties with Tim Stauffer on Wednesday when they released the struggling righthander. Stauffer, who can sign with any team, gave up 11 earned runs in 15 innings with the Twins.
“We had high hopes he was going to be a pretty good fit.” Ryan said. “It just did not work out.”
• Righthander Ricky Nolasco, on the disabled list because of a right ankle impingement, is being fitted with orthotics after having a setback during a recent bullpen session. He’s out indefinitely.
• Manager Paul Molitor, trying to jump-start the offense, batted Joe Mauer second and Trevor Plouffe third. It was only the second time in 62 games that Mauer has batted in the No. 2 hole.