PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. – You hate to put so much pressure on a 2-year-old, but if Buddy Boshers ultimately makes the Twins' roster later this month, Sadie May Boshers might have something to do with it.
Buddy Boshers is in a three-way struggle for a spot in the Twins' bullpen as the second lefthander behind Taylor Rogers, and it's not easy to read Paul Molitor's intentions. It's likely that Boshers, Craig Breslow or Ryan O'Rourke will come north to Minneapolis, but only one. "I would be surprised if two of them made it," the Twins manager said Friday. "But we haven't really eliminated a lot of people yet."
Imagine living with that sort of uncertainty, under that kind of strain. Boshers has pitched well this spring, had a tremendous initial month in Minnesota last season (a 1.38 ERA in his first 15 appearances), and retired the three Rays he faced Friday on two routine grounders and a harmless fly ball, the fifth scoreless performance of his six outings. Yet he's got only a 1-in-3 chance of wearing a Twins uniform on Opening Day, the difference between a $535,000 annual salary and status as a major leaguer, and earning only a fraction of that while opening the season in the minors for a ninth consecutive year.
Under those circumstances, it must be hard not to handicap this horse race with every performance, with every batter, with every pitch. Even a veteran such as Boshers admits to allowing those thoughts to creep in every so often.
"You try not to, but everybody thinks about that stuff," he said. "I'll play different scenarios in my head, I'll play [general manager]. But it never works out the way you envision it. You've got to stay away from that. It's not healthy. It's not helpful."
This is where Sadie May comes in. A month from her third birthday, Boshers' daughter serves as a tension-abatement specialist, a forget-that-bad-pitch chatterbox. "She keeps me pretty busy, from the time I walk through the door. We go to the pool five days a week," said the Huntsville, Ala., native. "My down time consists of maybe 30 minutes a night. So there's not a whole lot of time to worry about baseball."
Molitor doesn't have that luxury. He's worried about piecing together a bullpen that won't repeat the disasters of 2016, and must ultimately choose between three completely different lefthanders. Breslow is the cerebral near-sidearmer who has used modern tracking systems to refine his new style of pitching. O'Rourke is the specialist, dominating lefties but sometimes vulnerable to righthanders. And Boshers is a more conventional lefthander, the hardest thrower of the three, who averaged more than a strikeout per inning last year.
"It's three different styles. You just have to try to find the best fit," Molitor said. Boshers, he said, has a few things going for him.
"A big thing for him is when he throws strikes and gets ahead, he's got that two-seam [fastball], it's almost like a changeup that gets down to 85 from his normal 90-91," the manager said. "And he's got a really good breaking ball that maybe plays better left to right. It's going to be tough, because all those guys seem to be stepping it up here of late."
Which is why Boshers is so glad he's got that little stress reliever.
"I want to put the pressure on the coaches, the front office, the manager. To make it a competitive camp, which everybody wants," Boshers said. "I know I can pitch in the big leagues. I've proved it. So I try to let the pressure go. If I think, 'Oh, I'm going to get sent down tomorrow,' it's going to carry over to the mound and you're not going to get the results you're looking for. I just control what I can control, and see what happens at the end of camp."