Matt Shoemaker knew he hadn’t been pitching well, of course, but as the days following a clunker in Kansas City went on, Shoemaker wasn’t really thinking anything out of the ordinary was going on.
That start, though, helped spur conversations between Twins decisionmakers behind the scenes regarding a change. The starter had retired just one batter and had given up nine runs (eight earns) against the Royals. He had a 7.28 earned-run average in 11 starts and had given up five or more runs in five of those games.
It was time for the Twins to do something.
During a conversation that Shoemaker said was around a half hour, manager Rocco Baldelli delivered the news: The team was moving Shoemaker to the bullpen.
“It was a tough conversation and we also laughed a lot,” Shoemaker said. “ … I know I’m a good starter. I know I can be a really good starter again. I’ve not been recently and I wish I could fight the team on it and I wish I could fight Rocco. That’s what we were laughing about. I said, ‘Listen, I want to fight you right now and say, ‘No, let’s not do this.’ But realistically, I’ve not been doing well.”
Shortly after, Shoemaker turned to strength and conditioning coach Ian Kadish and the Twins training staff to chat about arm care and preparing his body. He also turned to Taylor Rogers and Tyler Duffey, both of whom were also starters-turned-relievers, finding out tricks they use to prepare for the role both physically and mentally.
Shoemaker said he would anticipate being used in a long relief role to begin with, but knows he has to be ready for anything. Though he closed for a year in college and has some prior experience out of the bullpen in the big leagues early in his career, it’s a relatively unfamiliar position for the 34-year-old veteran.
“Just because he’s started in the past and done so fairly successfully for a while doesn’t mean you can’t have a new role, and doesn’t mean you can’t be a good ballplayer in a different situation,” Baldelli said. “We think this can work for him and we think this is, potentially, even a blessing in disguise.”
Shoemaker was originally scheduled to start on Friday night. Bailey Ober instead drew the start as Shoemaker started to settle into his new role.
“It’s definitely different, but I fully embrace it,” Shoemaker said. “Unfortunately I’ve not been a very efficient starter this year. I know I can be, but like I said, that’s just the way it is right now and I’ve got to figure it out and help this team however I can. If it’s out of the bullpen and it’ll get this team going and get myself going, so be it. Great. Let’s do it.”
Arraez begins rehab
Luis Arraez began a rehab assignment on Friday night in St. Paul as he nears a return from a shoulder strain that has kept him shelved since May 23.
“I think we’re just going to let him go out there and play today, see how he comes out of it and kind of react from there,” Baldelli said. “he could play multiple games. We’ll see how the first game goes, if everything goes perfectly well, and he feels great and all that, maybe we have something to talk about sooner than that.”
Arraez injured his shoulder on a slide into second base in the first inning on May 22 and Wednesday was the first time he had taken batting practice since being placed on the injured list.
He said playing through the pain after injuring his shoulder was “super bad.” He couldn’t swing the bat and when he missed some pitches, he said he started crying a little bit on the inside. But after a long few weeks, that’s past him and he’s eager for his return.
“No pain. I don’t feel anything right now. I feel so good right now,” an exuberant Arraez said on Wednesday.
Byron Buxton (hip) had a day of active recovery on Friday and the Twins plan on having him play center field on Saturday at CHS Field as he continues his rehab assignment. … Alex Kirilloff was back in the lineup on Friday after spraining his ankle a day earlier. … Kenta Maeda is expected to rejoin the Twins’ rotation on Monday and start in Seattle after making a rehab start on Wednesday. … Baldelli said Rob Refsnyder (hamstring) was running at about 80 percent on Friday.