3:31PM: Alex Kirilloff was optioned to Triple-A to make room for Smeltzer on the active roster. Kirilloff has hit only .172/.226/.172 over 32 plate appearances, and also spent close to three weeks the IL due to wrist inflammation. To open a 40-man spot for Smeltzer, Miguel Sano is being placed on the 60-day IL. Sano underwent knee surgery on May 3, and the Twins’ expectation is that Sano will return at some point this season, though the 60-day placement sidelines him until July at the earliest.
2:36PM: The Twins are going to select the contract of Devin Smeltzer today, per Do-Hyoung Park of MLB.com, with the lefty getting the start in tonight’s game against the Guardians. Smeltzer is not currently on the club’s 40-man roster, meaning a corresponding move will be required to open a spot for him.
Acquired from the Dodgers in the Brian Dozier trade, Smeltzer had a solid MLB debut with the Twins in 2019. In 49 innings over six starts and five relief appearances, he put up a 3.86 ERA. His 18.8% strikeout rate was below average, but he limited walks at a rate of 5.9%. In the shortened 2020 season, he took a step backward, logging a 6.75 ERA in 16 innings. Last year, elbow issues limited him to just 4 2/3 innings and led to his outright in November.
The 26-year-old seems to have gotten things back on track this year, as he’s been healthy and starting in Triple-A. Over five starts, he’s thrown 21 innings with a 3.86 ERA, 20.5% strikeout rate and 6.8% walk rate.
For the Twins, as recently as a week ago, it seemed they were nearing a starting pitching surplus. Sonny Gray came off the injured list and joined Chris Archer, Chris Paddack, Josh Winder and Joe Ryan in the rotation. It seemed like the club would have to make a tough choice on how to assign the pitching duties once Dylan Bundy and Bailey Ober returned from the injured list. However, a few days later, Paddack left his start with elbow inflammation and is now on the 60-day IL, possibly heading towards Tommy John surgery.
While Paddack’s injury has created the need for Smeltzer to step in, it’s possible that it could just be a spot start. After today, the club plays four more before an off-day on May 19. However, after that, the club will play 18 games in 17 days, due to a doubleheader on May 31. Smeltzer is out of options, meaning the club will need to keep him on the roster if they hope to use him again during that stretch.
The recuperation of Bundy and Ober will likely play a role in determining Smeltzer’s status. Bundy is currently on the COVID IL and will need a spot on the 40-man roster when he returns. He has cleared COVID protocols but is still feeling some of the effects of the illness, per Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Ober went on the IL two weeks ago due to a groin strain but has been throwing bullpens recently, per Park.