Twins moving reliever Emilio Pagán into a different role
The Twins’ saves leader has given up 9 earned runs in 2⅓ innings over his past four appearances
After coughing up late leads in four of his past appearances, Emilio Pagán will have a new bullpen role for the Twins.
“I think he’s going to find himself pitching in some different places in the game, and he knows that,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “I’ve talked to him about it.”
Acquired with injured starter Chris Paddack in the trade that sent closer Taylor Rogers to San Diego, Pagán has pitched almost exclusively in the eighth inning or later this season, in 25 of his 27 appearances, and leads the Twins with nine saves. But the right-hander is struggling, and at a particularly bad time.
The Twins entered Friday night’s game against Baltimore at Target Field with a one-game lead on Cleveland in the American League Central. But that lead would be larger had Pagan pitched better against the Twins’ closest division rival. The teams played eight times between June 21 and Thursday, and Pagan surrendered four leads in the eighth inning or later —å all Twins losses.
In those four appearances, Pagán was charged with nine earned runs on seven hits and three walks in 2⅓ innings pitched. He was officially credited with two blown saves.
“It’s not just one appearance when that’s happened, it’s been a few now,” Baldelli said. “E.P. knows all these things, and probably could see this coming. This wasn’t shocking to him when I talked to him about it.”
Asked which pitchers might be moved into more late-inning appearances, Baldelli mentioned Tyler Duffey (one save), Caleb Thielber (one save), Griffin Jax (one save), Jharel Cotton and Jovani Moran (one save). Jax (37⅓) and Jhoan Duran (35) lead the bullpen innings pitched, and Duran is second on the team with five saves.
As for Pagán, his appearances will come with less on the line, earlier in games, perhaps when the Twins are trailing.
“I think we’re going to, hopefully, be able to relax him a little,” Baldelli said. “Get him out there, let him put up some zeroes earlier in ball games and see what happens from there.”
“Yeah, he’s going to pitch earlier in the games and potentially when we don’t have the lead and things like that.”
‘BRING IT ON’
In the wake of the sudden resignation of pitching coach Wes Johnson, the Twins have promoted bullpen coach Pete Maki. He joined the organization in 2018 as minor league pitching coordinator and has been with the major league staff since becoming interim bullpen coach in 2020.
The timing wasn’t great for the Twins, who were in the middle of a key stretch of games, playing eight of 11 against Cleveland, when Johnson resigned. It didn’t help that the bullpen coughed up leads in all five of the Twins losses in the series.
Asked if that makes his transition difficult, Maki said, “I mean bring it on, man.”
“We’re gonna go through periods of stink sometimes,” he added. “I mean, it is what it is. We get to play every day in this sport, as many people have said before into these microphones. We’ll do a good job today with what we got.”
Asked if he could pinpoint a reason for the bullpen’s struggles, Maki pointed to pitchers getting behind in the count.
“When you fall behind, it’s tougher to do well,” he said. “So, I think that’s, simply put, that’s a philosophy of mine and was of Wes’, of course. We’re gonna attack earlier in the count, know what to do with two strikes.”
Right-hander Joe Smith, on the 10-day injured list with a tight trapezius muscle, is scheduled to pitch a rehab game on Saturday in St. Paul. So is right-hander Trevor Megill, on the IL with a shoulder impingement. … Right-hander Jorge Alcala, on the 60-day IL with elbow inflammation, has had a setback in his rehab and appears a longshot to return this season after making just two major league appearances in April. “His return is not imminent,” Baldelli said. … The Twins designated veteran right-hander Tyler Thornburg for release or assignment and recalled right-hander Juan Minaya.
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