At 33 and on his fifth MLB team, there isn’t a lot Tyler Thornburg hasn’t experienced in his baseball life.
So when Atlanta signed him as a free agent ahead of this season and put him on the Opening Day roster, only to end up releasing him May 29, Thornburg took it in stride.
“I feel like the biggest thing that’s helped me through all this is just having done it before,” the pitcher said. “I feel like I’ve been through a ton in my career as far as ups and downs, injuries, feeling well, pitching really well. So, having done that kind of helps me feel even-keeled throughout the whole designating process and understanding I was still pitching well when that happened.”
The Twins picked him up on a minor league contract on June 3, bringing him up to the big leagues as a fresh arm Sunday. He pitched 2⅓ innings in the 6-0 loss to the Rays, allowing no hits, walking one and striking out one.
The veteran took over for rookie Cole Sands, a Class AAA replacement starter with the rotation depleted. Sands did decently up until his fifth inning exit that gave Tampa Bay a commanding lead, ending with five hits, five runs and a walk along with five strikeouts. Tyler Duffey pitched the final two innings but gave up a solo home run in the eighth. Tampa Bay’s pitchers snuffed the Twins hitters, allowing just five collective hits and four walks in a unremarkable offensive excursion.
Thornburg dabbled at the MLB level from 2012-20 with Milwaukee, Boston and Cincinnati. His most-prolific stint was in 2016 when he pitched in 67 games for the Brewers, with a 2.15 ERA. He sat out the 2020 season after having Tommy John surgery.
In Atlanta this season, he put up a 3.86 ERA through nine games.
“[I want to] prove that I’m back to being me, honestly,” Thornburg said. “In 2020, I felt really good, then all of the sudden the elbow kind of went. So, it was pretty frustrating to feel like I’m finally getting healthy again only to have that happen. Same kind of thing [this year]. After signing with the Braves, felt incredible coming in, didn’t allow a baserunner in spring training, pitching like I can — and then really not pitching too often. Pitching relatively well in the outings I did get, and then just to be designated after that.
“And to get an opportunity here is big time, just to prove that, hey, I can do this very well at this high level.”
Rotation rumblesChris Archer — the only original member of the starting rotation to not miss a start because of illness or injury — will begin the series in Seattle on Monday, but after that, there are still a few questions marks.
Joe Ryan will likely take the Tuesday game, with Sonny Gray going Wednesday against the Mariners. Gray has been on the injured list with a right pectoral strain, and Ryan had to recover from COVID-19. Those might push both Dylan Bundy’s and Devin Smeltzer’s next starts back to the three-game series in Arizona that begins Friday.
The Twins already designated Saturday spot starter Chi Chi Gonzalez for assignment and seem likely to return Sands to Class AAA after his two outings this past week. So roster moves could come ahead of Monday’s game.
Polanco, Gordon with minor injuriesTwins manager Rocco Baldelli pulled second baseman Jorge Polanco in the eighth inning Sunday, citing a sore back.
“He’s been kind of battling through it. It’s been something that’s been on and off this year,” Baldelli said of Polanco’s back tightness. “… It’s not an injury in and of itself. It’s just more of some soreness that has gotten maybe a little worse recently, so we wanted to get him out of there and get him assessed. … Maybe get him off his feet for a day and then see where he’s at.”
Polanco’s exit heralded a good sign for Nick Gordon, though. The utility player left Saturday’s game early because of a tight right hamstring/knee. He wasn’t in the lineup Sunday until he entered the game for Polanco, even smacking a base hit.
As the Twins head to Seattle, some players will not join. Pitcher Kenta Maeda will hang back in the Twins Cities as he continues his recovery from Tommy John surgery. Outfielder Kyle Garlick (left hamstring strain) plans on meeting the Saints in Columbus on Tuesday for a workout before beginning a rehab assignment there Wednesday.