MINNEAPOLIS—If the Twins have a twin, it’s the St. Paul Saints, an American Association team that shares the metro area. But the major league team doesn’t do much to acknowledge the independent league team’s existence.
That doesn’t mean they don’t pay attention to their nextdoor neighbor, however.
“We scout everywhere,” vice president of player personnel Mike Radcliff said with a laugh. “That means our backdoor, too.”
And that’s where they found Caleb Thielbar, one of the hardest-throwing pitchers in their system—and the first St. Paul player ever purchased by Minneapolis’ team.
The 25-year-old lefthander, who signed with the Twins last August, was keeping busy last summer after being released by the Brewers, having suffered through an uncharacteristically ineffective 2010 season with low Class A Wisconsin. He found a job with the Saints, just up the road from his home in Northfield, Minn.
If he was trying to get noticed by the Twins, it worked.
“We knew about him going back a few years, and (upper Midwest area scout) Mark (Wilson) had liked him, so he went and took a look,” Radcliff said. “He’s throwing harder now than when we first scouted him.”
So hard, in fact, that his fastball can touch 95 mph and is routinely 93. Thielbar, who was drafted out of South Dakota State in the 18th round by Milwaukee in 2009 but released a year and a half later, was having a rejuvenating season for the Saints, including a franchise-record 29 2/3 scoreless-inning streak. He struck out 62 in just 49 innings, and walked just 11.
Admittedly, that dominance came against independent league competition, but Thielbar has been just as effective in the Twins organization and was promoted to Double-A New Britain less than four weeks into the season.
• Deolis Guerra, the Twins’ lone remaining player acquired from the Mets in the Johan Santana trade, got off to a strong start at New Britain, allowing only one run in seven relief appearances totaling 12 2â"3 innings (0.71 ERA).
• Kyle Gibson, a first-round pick in 2009 who had Tommy John surgery last year, had begun light throwing as part of his rehab. The 24-year-old righthander, who represented the Twins in the Futures Game last July, was scheduled to throw off a mound for the first time on June 5.