Devin Smeltzer did everything he could to make the Twins’ opening day roster. The southpaw left his fourth and final start of the spring on April 2 having not allowed a run all camp. But the next day, he ended up in the AAA class personnel instead.
Persevering through adversity, however, is nothing new for the 26-year-old. He survived childhood cancer and battled a herniated disc in his neck that disrupted his 2021 season. And in five games with the Saints so far this season, he’s 1-2 with an ERA. of 3.86.
So when the Twins realized they needed a starter on the spot with Dylan Bundy not yet ready to start after his battle with COVID-19, Smeltzer was the call to complete the injury-riddled rotation.
In his five innings Saturday at Target Field, he allowed just three hits and a run, but the Twins ultimately lost 3-2 in extra innings to Cleveland in front of a reported crowd of 22,939.
The 10and The round was the Twins’ loss, as they fell behind in scoring and lost their manager. With Franmil Reyes starting second, Andres Gimenez hit what looked like an RBI double out to right field. But as he was turning first, he ran into Twins first baseman Jose Miranda. The umpires let him advance to second base, which Rocco Baldelli violently disapproved of before being sent off.
Gimenez would then score on Myles Straw’s hit before the end of the inning. Gio Urshela had a hit to tag No. 2 Twins runner Gary Sanchez late in the inning, but it wasn’t enough for the win. The Twins are now 19-15 while Cleveland is 16-16.
Before the endgame dramas, however, Baldelli said that before the game, this was the best version of Smeltzer he had seen.
“It was only a matter of time before we saw him here,” Baldelli said. “And there he is.”
Smeltzer’s toughest inning was second, when he allowed Owen Miller to double up before his wild throw sent Miller to third. Reyes then pulled over to hit an RBI single. But Smeltzer retired the next two batters to end the inning with minimal damage.
“His stuff was really good. He came to camp, looked great, threw the ball well,” Baldelli said. “I don’t think his year so far could have gone much better in terms of how he prepared and came to camp and pitched. So he put himself in a really good position depending of all the work he’s done. You can tell he’s worked a lot.”
While the Twins loaded the bases twice, once at third and again at fifth, they couldn’t manage any runs from those opportunities, with Max Kepler out and Urshela on double play. The Twins were also without star Byron Buxton, who took a scheduled day off. But the Twins tied Cleveland in the fourth inning, from Urshela’s solo homer to the bullpen.
Cleveland starter Shane Bieber went six innings, allowing seven hits and a run, but also seven strikeouts.
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