The Twins have selected the contracts of pitchers Andrew Albers and Kyle Barraclough, according to Betsy Helfand of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press (Twitter link). Left-hander Lewis Thorpe is landing on the 10-day injured list with a left shoulder impingement, while righty Edgar García is being optioned to Triple-A St. Paul. Minnesota removed right-hander Beau Burrows from the 40-man roster. Burrows has already cleared outright waivers and will remain in the organization on assignment to St. Paul.
Albers is back in Minnesota for his third separate stint with the club. He broke into the majors with the Twins in 2013 but was released the following offseason so he could pursue an opportunity in the Korea Baseball Organization. Albers returned stateside in 2015 with the Blue Jays, then found his way back to the Twins in 2016 in free agency. He saw some big league time with the Mariners in 2017, then signed with the Orix Buffaloes of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball for the 2018 campaign.
The well-traveled Albers signed an extension with the Buffaloes to keep him in NPB through 2020. He returned to affiliated ball this past offseason, singing a minors pact with the Twins in February. Assigned to St. Paul, Albers has been a mainstay in the Saints’ rotation. Over 91 innings in that hitter-friendly environment, he’s worked to 3.86 ERA, offsetting a below-average 19.8% strikeout rate with an incredible 2.3% walk percentage. That strong showing has earned the 35-year-old another big league opportunity, where he figures to be a multi-inning relief option for manager Rocco Baldelli.
Barraclough hasn’t been away from the big leagues quite as long as Albers has, but he’s back at the highest level for the first time in two years. The hard-throwing righty looked like a key bullpen piece for the Marlins early in his career, working to a 2.78 ERA across 97 innings between 2015-16. But Barraclough’s always-shaky control became less palatable as his strikeout totals fell over the coming seasons, and he hasn’t pitched in the majors since a tough 2019 campaign split between Miami and the Nationals.
Signed to a minor league deal by the Yankees over the winter, Barraclough was granted his release in mid-June and hooked on with the Twins two days later. Between the two teams’ Triple-A affiliates, the 31-year-old has posted an even 3.00 ERA with a massive 38.7% strikeout rate. Barraclough’s walk rate has still been troublingly high at 14.8%, but his impressive swing-and-miss stuff will earn him a look in a Minnesota bullpen that had to cover almost ten innings yesterday because Thorpe departed with shoulder soreness early in his start.
Burrows was a first-round pick of the Tigers in 2015 and was seen as one of the more promising pitching prospects in the Detroit system over the next few years. He dominated the lowest levels but hasn’t yet found much success above Double-A. The 24-year-old owns a 5.15 ERA over 94 1/3 Triple-A innings and has been tagged for 22 runs over a brief 17 2/3 frame look at the major league level.
Clearly, Burrows’ time in the big leagues hasn’t gone as he’d envisioned to this point. That said, he’s still young enough it’s plausible he can eventually deliver upon some of the promise that made him so well-regarded not long ago. The Twins are surely happy to get an opportunity to work with Burrows, whom they added on a waiver claim from Detroit in late June, without having to dedicate a 40-man roster spot to him.
In other news for Minnesota, Baldelli informed reporters (including Do-Hyoung Park of MLB.com) that star center fielder Byron Buxton is set to embark upon a rehab assignment with St. Paul tomorrow. It’ll be his first game action in nearly two months, as Buxton suffered a left hand fracture after being hit by a pitch on June 22. Position players can spend up to twenty days on rehab assignments, so Buxton looks likely to be back in the big leagues by the first week of September so long as he doesn’t suffer any setbacks.
Buxton’s return comes as the Twins have started to play more to their expected level coming into the year. It’s too late for Minnesota to make a playoff push, but an improved second half could reinforce the front office’s belief the club is capable of returning to contention in 2022. Buxton’s return for the season’s final month-plus will be a welcome opportunity to give him some needed reps. It’s certainly been a frustrating campaign for Buxton, who has been brilliant (.369/.409/.767) when healthy but has required a pair of significant IL stints. The 27-year-old missed around six weeks between May and June with a right hip strain, then made it back for just three games before suffering the hand fracture.