TODAY: Thornburg has cleared waivers and been outrighted off Minnesota’s 40-man roster. It isn’t yet known if he’ll accept the assignment to Triple-A or opt for free agency.
JULY 1: The Twins announced Friday that they’ve selected the contract of right-hander Juan Minaya from Triple-A St. Paul and designated righty Tyler Thornburg for assignment to clear spot on the active and 40-man rosters.
Thornburg, 33, turned in four scoreless outings to start his Twins tenure, combining for eight innings in that time. He walked three hitters and recorded just four strikeouts during that span, however, and he was the latest Twins reliever to fail to put away the Guardians over the past couple weeks. Tasked with protecting a two-run lead while the Twins dealt with a depleted bullpen, Thornburg served up four runs (three earned) on two hits, a hit batter and three walks yesterday. Thornburg allowed the game to be tied in the eighth before yielding a walk-off home run to Andres Gimenez in the ninth — an incredible fifth blown lead for the Twins against the Guardians in eight games over the past two weeks.
The veteran Thornburg has totaled 19 innings between the Twins and Braves this season, pitching to a sound-looking 3.32 ERA that doesn’t mesh with far more concerning secondary numbers. Thornburg has walked a hefty 12.6% of his opponents, hit another and notched just a 16.2% strikeout rate. He’s also allowed just one home run despite a huge 50.8% fly-ball rate, and the resulting 3.2% homer-to-flyball ratio clocks in way shy of his career 10% mark. ERA alternatives like FIP (4.24) and SIERA (5.26) are far more bearish on his work thus far.
The Twins will have a week to trade Thornburg, pass him through outright waivers or release him. With six-plus years of MLB service, he can reject an outright assignment in favor of free agency in the event that he goes unclaimed.
Minaya, 31, will return for what will now be his fourth big league stint with the Twins in the past two seasons. He’s repeatedly ridden the DFA carousel in Minnesota, being selected to the roster, designated for assignment and accepting outright assignments on several occasions. Minaya posted a 2.48 ERA in 40 innings with the Twins in 2021, logging above-average strikeout and ground-ball rates along the way. He also walked 12% of his opponents, though, and he’s been torched both in the big leagues (six runs in 6 1/3 innings) and in Triple-A (5.91 ERA in 21 1/3 frames) so far in 2022.
The Twins are in obvious need of help to upgrade what has been an awful bullpen throughout the season, and that figures to be a key focus as the Aug. 2 trade deadline draws nearer. Rookie Jhoan Duran has been one of baseball’s best relievers, and converted starter Griffin Jax has emphatically secured a spot as well. The rest of the group has underwhelmed, to say the least, and the recent string of missed opportunities has kept the Twins from putting the Central largely out of reach. They currently hold a one-game lead over Cleveland.