La Velle E. Neal III
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La Velle's 3-2 Pitch: Three observations and two predictions on Sundays.

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Emilio Pagán was effective for the first two months of last season before the wheels fell off the apple cart in June. He had an 11.42 ERA that month, blew three save opportunities and was inconsistent the rest of the season.

On Wednesday, Pagán entered a game against the Dodgers in the seventh inning, walked two batters, gave up a grand slam and saw his ERA rise to 5.60.

It suggests that Pagán isn't waiting for the June swoon. He's causing dismay in May. And the "Why is Pagán here?" crowd is starting to clear its throat.

The Twins could have moved on from Pagán after last season but didn't.

And there's no reason to put the righthander on the hot seat now.

Pagán entered the season looking to establish his cut fastball. After throwing it 19.2% of the time a year ago, he is throwing it 33% of the time this season. And he's throwing it harder, averaging 87.1 miles per hour. It has allowed him to hold righthanded hitters to a .159 average after they hit .270 against him last year.

On Wednesday, he couldn't throw strikes with it. Walking Miguel Vargas lit the fuse. Then James Outman delivered the bomb. Lefties are crushing him, batting .464, so bringing him in when lefty-hitting Jason Heyward was at the plate was not a good move. But it was his first blown save and first home run allowed this season. It came in spectacular fashion and won't be easily forgotten.

But nine of Pagán's 11 earned runs this season were given up in two outings: on Wednesday and on April 20 in Boston when Kenta Maeda had to leave the game after facing eight batters. Pagan eventually gave up six earned runs over 1 ⅔ innings.

A year ago, I questioned whether Pagán belonged on the pitching staff. This season I'm not. He's found a way to neutralize righthanded hitters and is no longer the closer. He's not even the primary setup man. There will be games like Wednesday when he'll be asked to pitch in a high-leverage situation, but not nearly as much as a year ago.

Facing lefthanded hitters is a problem, so his exposure to them should be limited. That will be easier to do once Caleb Thielbar comes off the injured list. A veteran lefty should be on the shopping list before the trade deadline. They should be looking for bullpen help anyway, as they currently are leaning on a few inexperienced relievers.

But it should not come at Pagán's expense. He can be effective if not used in tight spots often. And there is room on a pitching staff for such a role.

A Portland possibility

If the Portland Trail Blazers are committed to adding veteran talent around star guard Damian Lillard, and its No. 3 overall pick is on the table as part of a package, then the Timberwolves should explore a deal involving Karl-Anthony Towns.

The Wolves are headed for luxury tax trouble after the 2023-24 season, when Towns is scheduled to earn $50 million. A trade would be cost-effective while opening more playing time for the improving Naz Reid. This would give the Wolves a chance to draft a point guard who could study under Mike Conley, who's entering the final year of his contract.

This would mean the two-big-man experiment with Rudy Gobert would end before the Wolves had enough time to evaluate it. Towns was limited to 29 games because of a calf injury, so the scheme never gained traction. But this is Anthony Edwards' team now, and the Wolves need to solidify the point guard position.

Sticky situation

Domingo Germán, what were you thinking?

On Tuesday, the Yankees righthander was checked for foreign substances between innings. Umpire crew chief James Hoye said Germán's hand was the "stickiest I've ever felt." Germán was ejected and will serve a 10-game suspension, which he isn't appealing.

Germán is either careless or arrogant. He's been on umpires' radar for a month.

Germán dodged an ejection on April 15 when he was asked to wipe excess rosin — or whatever that was — off his hands between innings of a game against the Twins. Germán claimed he did wipe his hands but applied more rosin in the dugout before returning to the field, which umpires didn't appreciate. Twins manager Rocco Baldelli was ejected when Germán was allowed to stay in the game.

Now we have Tuesday's shenanigans. Something smells fishy — and feels sticky — here.


Lynx will be better

With Napheesa Collier ready to make her full return following maternity leave last season and promising rookie Diamond Miller emerging, an improved Lynx team will go 22-18 and qualify for the postseason.

Rey back

Expect Emanuel Reynoso to play his first game of the season with the Loons on June 3 against Toronto. He'll need time to regain fitness after his five-month absence, then needs to train well.