Indications are that Twins righthander Michael Pineda will be activated from the injured list during this week’s series in Texas, a move that will raise a couple of questions.
The easy one: Who will be taken off the roster to make room for him?
The not-so-easy one: Who will be removed from the rotation to make room for Pineda?
Pineda, who has recovered from a right triceps strain, has a 2.23 ERA over his past six starts, deserving of a chance to re-enter the rotation once he’s activated. Lefthander Devin Smeltzer has made two starts in Pineda’s place, throwing six shutout innings at the Royals on Aug. 4, then giving up six runs over 4⅓ innings on Friday against the Indians.
What could prompt the Twins to leave Smeltzer in the rotation is Martin Perez’s recent struggles. The lefthander has an 8.14 ERA over his past four outings, during which opponents are batting .356 against him.
With each game becoming increasingly important in the Twins’ quest to win the AL Central, the club might be at a point where such a move is considered. The Twins have cleaned house in the bullpen, designating four relievers for assignment during a 12-day period in July. They haven’t altered the rotation, other than for injuries. They haven’t had to.
So far, the Twins have announced that Perez will start on Tuesday at Milwaukee and Kyle Gibson will start Wednesday. It could be a big start for Perez, who once was 7-1 with a 2.95 ERA but now is 8-5 with a 4.80 ERA.
Pineda is eligible to come off the IL Monday but likely won’t be activated until the day he starts. He threw in the bullpen Saturday and said things went well.
“Big Mike is actually doing very well,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “We don’t necessarily have a date still, but it was a positive day.”
Twins righthander Jose Berrios looked a little shaky in the early innings Sunday. Greg Allen belted a 439-foot home run off him two batters into the game, giving the Indians an early lead. Berrios then walked Carlos Santana and gave up a 110-mile-per-hour RBI double to Yasiel Puig.
Cleveland wasn’t fooled much by Berrios’ offerings early but he managed to limit the damage. His fastball was between 90-92 mph, which is 2-3 mph slower than usual. Berrios got just one swing and miss over the first 3⅔ innings. He has thrown his curveball 30 percent of the time this season, but only 18 of his 96 pitches on Sunday were curves. He threw 32 four-seam fastballs and 30 two-seamers (sinkers) to try to keep the Indians at bay.
“The plan was to start with the fastball, attack with the fastball, and move it up and down, in and out,” Berrios said. “And then as the game went through deeper innings in the game, we started throwing more changeups and curveballs.”
Berrios’ velocity improved the deeper he went in the game, to the point where he struck out Puig in the sixth with a 94.6-mph heater. Berrios gave up three runs over six innings Sunday, which is a quality start. He has 17 quality starts this the season, matching his total for all of last season.
Minor league honors
Class AA Pensacola outfielder Trevor Larnach and Class A Fort Myers righthander Jordan Balazovic have been named Twins minor league player and pitcher of the week.