FORT MYERS, Fla. — A stellar spring helped cement a spot on the Opening Day roster for Randy Dobnak, who turned in yet another solid effort Thursday night against the Red Sox.
The Minnesota Twins optioned Lewis Thorpe to the alternate training site Thursday afternoon, paving the way for Dobnak to take a role in the bullpen. Dobnak, not knowing if he could share the news, joked that he could wind up at Class-A Advanced Cedar Rapids, but manager Rocco Baldelli confirmed after the game Dobnak will start the year in the bullpen.
The Twins also reassigned pitchers Andrew Albers, Luke Farrell, Ian Hamilton, Juan Minaya, Glenn Sparkman and catcher David Banuelos to minor league camp.
“If I do make the Opening Day roster, it would be pretty cool. Obviously, it’s kind of something you grow up thinking about,” Dobnak said. “One thing is to be a big leaguer, and the next thing is like, ‘Oh, I want to be on the Opening Day roster when they introduce everybody.’ Especially this year, with fans, that would be pretty cool.”
Dobnak has given up just one run this spring — it came on a Bobby Dalbec home run in the fifth inning of the Twins’ 7-4 win over Boston on Thursday night at jetBlue Park in Fort Myers. Otherwise, it’s gone about as good as it possibly could have for Dobnak, who has a 0.66 earned-run average in 13 2/3 innings.
Normally a groundball pitcher, Dobnak has struck out 18 this spring, thanks in part to a revamped slider that came as a result of changing his hand positioning. Though Dobnak, a starter, will begin the year in the bullpen, Baldelli said he would be in a role “where we may call him to do different things.”
“We talked about this all the time, but it’s very true, he does not tend to overcomplicate the situation,” Baldelli said. “He just likes getting the ball in his hand and being able to take the mound and pitch. And Randy has been incredible this camp. I mean, essentially unhittable in any of his outings. And we’re very, very impressed with what we’ve seen from him.”
Twins have also been impressed with what they’ve seen from the southpaw Thorpe this spring and expect to see him in the majors this season. Thorpe has given up two runs in 7 2/3 innings and has seen an uptick in his velocity after an offseason of hard training.
“He’s going to end up helping us this year at some point, especially if he stays in this kind of form, but we just want to keep him locked in, focused and when we call his name, we expect him to go out there and throw just like he is at the moment,” Baldelli said. “If he does that, he’s going to have a lot of success.”
Catcher Mitch Garver left Thursday’s game after being struck during Jett Bandy’s third-inning at-bat. After imaging, the Twins said Garver has avoided a worst-case scenario, diagnosing him with a left finger contusion.
“He’s a pretty tough guy,” Baldelli said. “If he was perfectly fine and got right up and said he was ready to go, he’s obviously staying in the game, but we just wanted to make sure we got him looked at, and it looks like he’s going to come out of this OK, but we’re going to give him a day or two probably and just make sure.”
Tickets to the opening series at Target Field against the Mariners sold out within hours of going on sale to the general public Thursday. As of Thursday evening, the Twins had sold out nine games — all weekend games between April 8 and May 6.
The Twins still had tickets available for eight games: a four-game series against the Red Sox in mid-April and a four-game series against the Rangers from May 3-6.
Tickets to games through May 6 went on sale at 10 a.m. to the general public after first being offered to season-ticket holders. The Twins will be able to have up to 10,000 fans in attendance to begin the season.
Infielder Andrew Romine has taken his out and will be granted his release. Baldelli said there was a chance that Romine could return and they will know more in the next couple days about his next steps. … Byron Buxton hit a bases-clearing double and Josh Donaldson had a double and home run Thursday. … The Twins announced that Brian Meyer, who was supposed to be the Mighty Mussels’ hitting coach this season, will take over as the manager of their Low Single-A affiliate. Meyer was elevated after Aaron Sutton, who was slated to manage the team, stepped away from coaching to run a restaurant with his wife.