Artesian-Arts

Dobnak keeps rolling amid staff of struggling, sidelined Twins starters

The first-inning homer Hunter Dozier hit off Randy Dobnak ended the pitcher’s 36⅓-inning streak of avoiding the longball. Dobnak had given up only one big-league home run before Sunday, last Sept. 11 to Washington’s Trea Turner.

But that’s nitpicking. Dobnak continues to be a revelation. Despite giving up another home run to Alex Gordon in the second inning, he found a way to last 5⅓ innings in the Twins’ 4-2 victory over Kansas City.

Don’t scoff at 5⅓ innings. That was the length of the average start in Major League Baseball last year. If a team gets that from a No. 5 starter, that’s aces.

But at 4-1 with a 1.42 ERA, Dobnak’s numbers look ace-like.

“Randy threw the ball great again,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He went out there and was cruising with a nice, lower pitch count. He really had his slider working. This is just more of what we’ve seen. We’ve seen great outing after great outing.”

Randy Dobnak: Game-by-game results

Dobnak does it while throwing a bevy of sinking fastballs at hitters. He welcomes contact. He doesn’t want his fielders to get bored. He doesn’t nibble at the corners. He fills the strike zone.

“His last start, his sinker was about as good as I’ve seen it,” catcher Alex Avila said. “It has been. Obviously it’s his best pitch. It moves a lot, which at times, sometimes he’s had a little bit of trouble commanding it, especially gloveside. But it has been moving to where a lot of times I’m just telling him, ‘Don’t worry about the corners, just throw it right down the middle and let it work.’ ”

Dobnak’s performance has been more essential with Jose Berrios struggling, veterans Rick Hill and Homer Bailey on the injured list, Michael Pineda suspended and Jake Odorizzi having made only two starts after suffering an injury before the start of the season.

Matching up

Sergio Romo struck out the side in the ninth inning to pick up his third save of the season. Taylor Rogers got the hold with a scoreless eighth.

What’s with the role reversal?

Nothing, really. It was just the latest example of how Baldelli will use his bullpen to match up with an opponent’s lineup. He deployed Rogers in the eighth because the Royals had two lefthanded hitters in Gordon and Meibrys Viloria plus switch hitter Adalberto Mondesi due up. Rogers gave up a two-out single to pinch hitter Ryan McBroom but no further damage.

Romo and his multiple sliders entered in the ninth and finished off the Royals on 15 pitches.

Promising Pineda

Righthander Michael Pineda is serving the final games of his 60-game suspension for violating the league’s drug policy last year. He began this season with 36 games remaining and is working out with Twins reserves at CHS Field in St. Paul.

“Mike has thrown the ball very well,” Baldelli said. “I think when he’s eligible to become active, he’s going to be built up basically to full strength and he’ll be completely able.”

Pineda, 11-5 with a 4.01 ERA in 17 starts last year, has been pitching in simulated games. ‘We’ve seen him here,” Baldelli said. “He’s been throwing to hitters. The stuff is very good. He looks like the Michael Pineda that we all know and he looks like he’ll be ready to go.”

Wisler to start

Matt Wisler will start Monday’s series finale for the Twins. The righthander pitched 2⅔ innings on Tuesday at Milwaukee, so he could face several hitters as long as he is effective.

“He’s already shown that he can give us two-plus at different times if we need him to,” Baldelli said. “He may not. He may go one or two innings. But he’s going to start.”

In memoriam

The Twins are mourning the loss of two members of their family.

Jake Mauer, the grandfather of retired Twins star Joe Mauer, died Tuesday. Known for his popular Canterbury Park horse racing tip sheets, Jake Mauer was 89.

Also, Dominic St. Peter, the father of Twins President Dave St. Peter, died Saturday night at age 88.

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