Randy Dobnak was back with Twins on Saturday, but he wasn’t back
Out for most of past year, right-hander had cortisone shot on his troublesome middle finger Friday
Randy Dobnak was in the Twins’ clubhouse on Saturday, back with the team and standing in front of his own locker. But he wasn’t back. The right-hander wasn’t wearing a uniform, and he was due to fly back to Fort Myers, Fla., on Sunday.
Dobnak was in the Twin Cities to receive a cortisone shot in the right middle finger that has limited him to one major league appearance since June 19, 2021.
“That was always kind of like the last resort kind of thing,” he said.
He opted for the shot after the latest in a string of setbacks on the finger that first landed him on the injured list a little more than a year ago, derailing a second major league that started with him signing a five-year, $9.25 million contract earned after a solid rookie season in the abridged 2020 season (6-4, 4.05 earned-run average).
Doctors have diagnosed the issue as related to the pulleys in his finger; basically, he has ruptured two of them, leaving three to do the work of five and causing stiffness and pain at the base of the fingers. Yet it’s still something of a mystery.
“I had been throwing and was pretty close to coming back and had a setback,” Dobnak said Saturday. “Then it got to the point where I didn’t know if it was going to get better or not, so I was like, ‘OK, let’s do the cortisone and see what happens.’ ”
Dobnak, 27, said he’s confident he won’t go back to “Ground Zero” in his rehab, but he next step is to begin throwing from 60 feet, then 90 and 120. The goal, he said, is to avoid surgery for an injury common to mountain climbers because of the weight they often lift with the tips of their fingers.
“There’s not really guys that have gotten (the surgery) and come back to play baseball at the highest level,” Dobnak said. “I’m trying to avoid that.”
Doctors gave him the cortisone shot and took more images of the finger on Friday.
“There was a bunch of fluid in there but everything is structurally sound,” Dobnak said. “(The doctor) said, ‘If I didn’t know your past, I would assume nothing is wrong with it.’ So, then I was like, ‘OK, can we fix it please?’ ”
Change of pace
Tyler Duffey has always had a changeup in his pitching arsenal, he just never really had to use it in the minor or major leagues. Until recently.
A rough stretch of six games from May 26 to June 12 – 12 hits, 10 earned runs and five walks in 6⅔ innings pitched – had pitching coach Pete Maki, then the bullpen coach, looking for ways to get the back-end mainstay back on track.
“It was, like, ‘Hey, you ever thought about throwing the changeup?’ ” Duffey recalled. “I said, ‘Yeah, I just don’t know when to throw it, basically.’ They basically said, ‘Well, if it’s good enough, you can throw it whenever you want.’
Duffey, 31, started adding it during bullpen sessions until he felt confident enough to use it regularly in games. Since it has been in his repertoire, he has thrown nine innings in six appearances, surrendering no runs on five hits and two walks.
In his most recent appearances before Saturday’s game against the Baltimore Orioles at Target Field, Duffey struck out four batters in 1⅔ innings while holding the lead in a 6-7, 10-inning loss at Cleveland last Thursday. Two of those strikeouts came on swings and misses at the change.
“It’s still (about) knowing to be smart with it,” Duffey said. “I always err on the side of throwing the pitch that is safest if I miss – don’t give yourself a chance to miss in a bad spot. …
“So, I think at least early on, until I can figure out how to really spot it, just get it to a good spot over the plate where it gets a swing and maybe a popup or swing and miss or just a bad take. We’ll see how it goes from there.”
Rookie right-hander Bailey Ober, 1-2 with a 4.01 ERA in seven starts this season, is headed to Fort Myers to resume his rehabilitation. “His return is not imminent,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. … Right-hander Trevor Megill (shoulder) was scheduled to throw a rehab assignment Saturday in St. Paul. … Right-hander Joe Smith (trapezius tightness) played catch on Saturday.
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