MINNEAPOLIS—Maybe it’s his weight. Maybe it’s his unusual hybrid breaking pitch. Maybe it’s his bullpen role. Whatever the reason, lefthander Jose Gonzalez sure pitches well for a guy who doesn’t get much notice.
“He kind of goes under the radar, I guess,” vice president for player personnel Mike Radcliff said. “He’s still a young guy, maybe that’s it. Nobody talks about him—but we do.”
Gonzalez, a native of Tucupita, Venezuela, has done nothing but get outs since he signed with the Twins as an 18-year-old in 2008. He has been brought along slowly, with only 145 career innings entering 2012, but he has been effective at every level, never posting an ERA higher than 2.47 for a season. Gonzalez’s career mark is 1.79.
So why does Gonzalez show up on few top prospect lists? Why does a pitcher with more career strikeouts (159) than innings receive little attention?
“I guess he doesn’t look like a great athlete. He’s battled his weight a little bit,” Radcliff said, though he noted that the 5-foot-9 lefthander is down to around 170 pounds.
Gonzalez throws a fastball in the low to mid 90s, and he’s got an effective changeup. But his out pitch is a . . . well, even Radcliff isn’t sure what to call it.
“It’s a hard breaking ball, not really a true slider, and not really an up-and-down breaking ball,” he said. “It’s evolved over time, so it’s a little unusual. But he throws it hard, and it’s got a sharp break.”
The 22-year-old Gonzalez has been in the bullpen since signing, and he spent much of 2011 as the closer at low Class A Beloit, racking up 13 saves. He opened this season at high Class A Fort Myers and was 0-2, 4.32 in five appearances with eight strikeouts.
• The Twins claimed outfielder Clete Thomas on waivers from the Tigers, a move that forced them to option Ben Revere to Triple-A Rochester. Revere spent most of 2011 in Minnesota but lost his outfield job to Ryan Doumit and Trevor Plouffe in the spring.
• Utility infielder Luke Hughes was designated for assignment and removed from the 40-man roster in order to make room for righthander Jason Marquis, who opened the season with two rehab starts for Double-A New Britain. Hughes, who batted .223/.289/.338 in 96 games in 2011, was claimed by the Athletics.