The Twins have designated righty Jharel Cotton for assignment, tweets Betsy Helfand of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press. The move is made in preparation for the activation of Bailey Ober from the 60-day injured list, which is expected to be finalized tomorrow.
Cotton is no stranger to DFA limbo, as he’s been on and off the Minnesota roster all year. Claimed off waivers from the Rangers over the offseason, the 30-year-old opened the year on the active roster but was DFA a week into the season. He cleared outright waivers and accepted an assignment to Triple-A St. Paul, kicking off a series of moves between the majors and Triple-A dependent on the Twins’ need for pitching depth. Minnesota has selected Cotton’s contract on four separate occasions, but he’s now been designated for assignment after each promotion.
On every prior occasion, the four-year MLB veteran has gone unclaimed and accepted an assignment back to the Saints. It’s surely frustrating not to carve out a permanent spot on the roster, but Cotton has navigated the constant shuffling and performed very well in Triple-A. Over 25 innings with the Saints, he has a 2.88 ERA with a massive 37.1% strikeout rate. He’s gotten swinging strikes on a whopping 16.9% of his offerings in the minors.
Cotton has had similar success keeping runs off the board in the big leagues this year, carrying a 2.83 ERA through 35 innings. Unlike his Triple-A production, he’s not posted especially promising peripherals against MLB hitters though. Cotton has a below-average 21.5% strikeout rate and an elevated 11.5% walk percentage. He’s benefited from a meager .182 batting average on balls in play, and Minnesota’s front office has clearly maintained justifiable skepticism Cotton can continue keeping runs off the board at his current rate.
He’ll yet again find himself on waivers in the next few days. If he clears again, it’s possible he accepts another assignment back to St. Paul, but he’ll have another opportunity to test the free agent market if no other team puts in a claim.
As for Ober, he’s slated to start tomorrow night to kick off the Twins’ biggest series of the season. Minnesota will play five straight against the AL Central-leading Guardians, including a doubleheader on Saturday. The Twins trail Cleveland by four games, with the White Sox sitting one game above Minnesota in a three-way battle for the division title. The Wild Card spots look likely to go to the Rays, Mariners and Blue Jays in some order, leaving the division as the best chance for any of the AL Central teams to secure a playoff spot.
It’s a key outing for Ober, who steps right into the fire after a three and a half month absence. First sidelined on June 2 with a right groin strain, the big righty was eventually moved to the 60-day injured list and didn’t head out on a rehab assignment until this month. He’s made two appearances in Low-A and one outing with St. Paul, working 4 2/3 innings and 66 pitches on Monday evening. He’ll presumably be on some kind of pitch count tomorrow, but it stands to reason skipper Rocco Baldelli would be happy if Ober’s capable of effectively turning the Cleveland lineup over twice.