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Young Pitchers Shine and Battle for Roster Spots in Minnesota Twins Latest Scrimmage

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The Minnesota Twins played another intrasquad scrimmage Sunday afternoon with Team Kepler beating Team Polanco 2-0 in seven innings.



Jake Odorizzi and Rich Hill were scheduled to be the starters, but neither ended up appearing. Instead, Lewis Thorpe and Randy Dobnak replaced them. One could assume the switch was made to get another look at the rookie pitchers and figure out the last few roster spots before camp breaks on Tuesday.

While that is a possibility, manager Rocco Baldelli said the reason Odorizzi was scratched was due to mild upper back stiffness. Thankfully he should be ready to go for his first start which should be either the second or third game of the season and against the White Sox in Chicago.



DOBNAK SOLIDIFIES ROSTER SPOT

With Hill (elbow surgery) and Michael Pineda (suspension) being out to begin 2020 originally, the fifth rotation spot was up in the air. While the team originally appeared close to inserting one of the three rookie pitchers (Dobnak, Thorpe, Devin Smeltzer) into that role, the delayed season has given Hill time to recover.

Even with the fifth rotation spot appearing to be less of a competition, there is still plenty to fight over. With a 60-game sprint quickly approaching, the Twins will likely need additional arms to eat up innings in longer relief appearances. That is where Dobnak and the others come into play.

While it was a rough day for Thorpe (4.0 innings, 7 hits, 2 runs), Dobnak proved why he should be first in line. He showcased some excellent sequencing and movement to begin the game. Dobnak threw four innings and didn’t allow a single hit.



Although he did walk four and only strike out two, throwing only 28 strikes in 61 pitches, it never hurt him. Each time a batter made contact Dobnak was inducing relatively weak contact and getting batters to hit right to a fielder.

This should only solidify him as being the top option out of the pen to break camp. If not that, then the first choice to make spot starts due to injury or coronavirus related illness. This also doesn’t come as a surprise as he was the best of the three rookie pitchers in 2019. Going 2-1 in five starts and 28.1 innings while allowing only five earned runs and issuing only five walks.

The wonderfully-bearded Uber driver has showcased why he deserves to be a viable option for the Twins in 2020. Especially beyond as a quality starter that should only continue to progress through his career.

PITCHING PROSPECTS SHINE

Dobnak wasn’t the only one to showcase his potential value during Sunday’s scrimmage. On top of his shutdown performance, Dakota Chalmers, Jhoan Duran, and Jorge Alcala all put on a show.

Chalmers and Alcala came in for Thorpe and were lights out. With Chalmers throwing two scoreless and allowing no runs while Alcala threw one scoreless inning and allowing no one on-base. Chalmers even got Josh Donaldson to become visibly frustrated on a curveball that he grounded into the dirt. The kid has some filth.



Even Duran, a highly touted prospect, threw two scoreless innings and issued only a single walk. And while strikeouts weren’t high for any pitcher in the game, that may be due to the Twins hitters having excellent eyes and discipline at the plate.



These performances are highlighting the job well done by the player development staff and scouting department over the last few years. It makes you wonder if this really is the year the Twins can go the distance. I can’t name another major league club that has this many unknown guys ready and waiting to make an impact. But we could see it happen in 2020.

The Minnesota Twins will play another intrasquad scrimmage Monday at 2:10 CT before heading off to Chicago for their exhibition against the Cubs prior to their Opening Day matchup against the White Sox on July 24th.

Jack Kewitsch | Minnesota Sports Fan

jkewitsch

Edina native and two-time grad of the University of Florida in Sport Management. Previously worked with the Timberwolves and Minnesota United FC along with the Gators.

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