MINNEAPOLIS—Maybe the Twins can prank-call Michael Tonkin after curfew, or assign the lanky righthander some extra running. Anything to make him mad.
“Some guys pitch angry really well,” low Class A Beloit pitching coach Gary Lucas said, “and Michael is an angry bird.”
Tonkin’s rise though the Twins organization had stalled at low Class A, where he spent half of the 2010 season, all of 2011, and the first three months of 2012—181 innings in all. A 30th-round pick in 2008, Tonkin signed for a $230,000 bonus and passed up a scholarship to Southern California. He had moved to the bullpen, developed a third pitch and turned himself into a Midwest League all-star, yet remained stuck in southern Wisconsin.
“He’s on a mission to get out of here,” Lucas said in early June. “Sometimes fear and frustration pushes guys, and he’s really angry about still being here. And that’s OK. I don’t want anybody to be comfortable here.”
Tonkin, 22, sure looked comfortable on the mound, striking out 53 hitters and posting a 1.38 ERA in 39 innings out of Beloit’s bullpen, including no runs in June. After an appearance in the Midwest League all-star game, Tonkin finally got what he was looking for: a trip to high Class A Fort Myers.
Maybe he pitches well happy, too. In Tonkin’s first seven innings in the Florida State League, he struck out 11 hitters and allowed only one run.
“Michael really opened my eyes this year. He’s an improved slider away from being a guy who could pitch in Minnesota one day,” Lucas said. “He’s got a hard-sinking, 93 mph fastball.
“You can see him settling in. He likes that late-inning pressure, and his stuff has played up more times than not. He’s got a bright future.”
If he can stay angry, anyway.
• The Twins acquired righthanded reliever Shairon Martis, who appeared in 20 games for Washington in 2008-09, from the Pirates for future considerations. Martis, assigned to Double-A New Britain, was 6-2, 4.69 this season for the Pirates’ Double-A and Triple-A clubs.
• Amaurys Minier, a 16-year-old, switch-hitting Dominican shortstop, signed a $1.4 million contract with the Twins. The 6-foot-2 Minier is expected to eventually move to third base or the outfield as his body matures.