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Twins bullpen steps up after Chris Paddack leaves with injury in Minnesota win

On Sunday, that meant scoreless performances from Cody Stashak, who followed Paddack and threw 2⅔ innings, Caleb Thielbar, who struck out all three batters he faced, Joe Smith, Tyler Duffey and Emilio Pagán, who locked down the save after allowing a pair of baserunners in the ninth.

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Minnesota Twins
Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Chris Paddack throws to the Oakland Athletics in the second inning at Target Field. Paddack left the game early with elbow inflammation.
Bruce Kluckhohn / USA Today Sports
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MINNEAPOLIS -- When the Minnesota Twins traded their closer, Taylor Rogers, away the day before Opening Day, it prompted questions as to who would step up to lead the unit.

Turns out, the answer has been just about everyone.

The Twins’ bullpen had a collective 3.21 earned-run average coming into Sunday, having not allowed an earned run in each of the previous two games. And that’s a good thing for them, because the Twins had to rely heavily on the group in Sunday’s 4-3 win over the Oakland Athletics at Target Field after watching starter Chris Paddack leave in the third inning with right elbow inflammation.

“Today was extra special, say, because you plan for things. But you don’t really expect your starter to come out after two innings into the third,” acting manager Jayce Tingler said. “All of a sudden, it’s all hands on deck. They’re ready for maybe different roles. … Hats off to those guys.”

The Paddack news is a troubling development for the Twins (18-11), who have been stung by the injury bug. Paddack, who had Tommy John surgery in 2016, was shut down at the end of last season because of a slight ulnar collateral ligament sprain in his right elbow.

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Tingler said Paddack felt good in the first and second innings, and when he went out for the third, he started to feel his elbow tightening up. The starter was unavailable postgame as he had left Target Field to undergo imaging, after which the Twins will know more about his status.

“I think with all our guys, we’ve got a pretty firm lens on it, and obviously you see what’s going around in the league with some of the pitching. So I think it’s something that we try to be on top of, and hopefully we (caught) this one early,” Tingler said.

Paddack left Sunday’s game with a pair of runners on base, and while both inherited runners wound up scoring, the Twins’ bullpen blanked the Athletics (10-18) down after that. In three games against Oakland, the unit allowed no earned runs.

On Sunday, that meant scoreless performances from Cody Stashak, who followed Paddack and threw 2⅔ innings, Caleb Thielbar, who struck out all three batters he faced, Joe Smith, Tyler Duffey and Emilio Pagán, who locked down the save after allowing a pair of baserunners in the ninth.

A day earlier, Danny Coulombe, Griffin Jax and Jhoan Duran combined for five scoreless innings. The day before that, it was Smith, Duffey and Pagán protecting the lead.

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Minnesota Twins
Minnesota's Jorge Polanco hits a two-run single against the Oakland Athletics in the third inning Sunday, May 8, 2022, at Target Field.
Bruce Kluckhohn / USA Today Sports

“To come into the clubhouse and everybody knows that the bullpen held us up today and kept us in it, it’s all you could want to hear as a team, and it builds confidence for everybody,” Duffey said. “It builds confidence for the starters, the hitters. They can relax knowing we’re going to come in and do our job. … Once everybody is clicking, it just makes things go smooth.”

Sunday’s group of relievers protected a one-run advantage that the Twins gained during a three-run third inning. After scoring a run in the second on a Gio Urshela sacrifice fly, rookie Jose Miranda drove in a run with an RBI double, and Jorge Polanco followed with a two-run single to put the Twins on top for good.

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The win marked the Twins’ third one-run victory in as many games and their ninth consecutive at Target Field as the banged-up team rolls into a much-needed off day atop the American League Central by three games.

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“It’s been different guys stepping up, and that’s a little bit of our identity right now,” Tingler said. “We know we’re going to need a handful of guys. We know nobody’s going to feel sorry for you. Other teams have guys that are out, whether it’s pitching or in the lineup. So we kind of understand the task at hand, and everybody’s got a role to do, and they’re doing a great job of doing their jobs right now.”

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