MINNEAPOLIS —The Twins drafted lefthander Tyler Jay as a starting pitcher. They trained him as a starter and used him that way for parts of two seasons at two levels. And this spring, they came to an important realization: Maybe he’s not a starting pitcher.
“You can’t just stomp your feet and make it be true,” said Mike Radcliff, the Twins’ vice president for player personnel. “At some point, you have to stop thinking about what you wish would happen and start thinking about what makes the most sense for both of you, the player and the team.”
What makes sense, the Twins decided after watching Jay’s four-pitch mix and mid-90s fastball is to channel those assets in a way that could frustrate major league hitters soon.
“He’s got major-league stuff, high-end pitches, there’s no doubt,” Radcliff said. “The questions about him are all about durability—staying healthy, stretching out to a starter’s workload. We haven’t given up on that, but for now, let’s get him healthy and see what he can do at his best.”
That notion has been delayed again; Jay, who missed the final month of 2016 with a pinched nerve in his neck, experienced shoulder soreness near the end of training camp and has yet to pitch for Double-A Chattanooga.
The Twins used the sixth overall pick in 2015 to draft Jay out of Illinois. He served as the Illini’s closer, starting just two college games. He posted a 2.84 ERA in 13 starts at high Class A Fort Myers, but threw more than 84 pitches in just five of them.
The Twins figure it could be 2-3 years before he builds up enough innings to be a major league starter. That realization, combined with his injuries, slight build (6-foot-1, 175 pounds), and Minnesota’s MLB-worst bullpen (a 4.63 bullpen ERA in 2016) convinced the Twins to make Jay a reliever.
“You maximize your assets,” Radcliff said. “For now, this is best for Tyler and it’s best for the Twins.”
• Twins doctors in Minneapolis examined lefthander Stephen Gonsalves after a recurrence of shoulder soreness in his 2017 debut at Chattanooga, but an MRI found no structural problems.
• Center fielder Zack Granite suffered a strained left oblique on the final day of spring training and went on the disabled list.
— Phil Miller covers the Twins for the Minneapolis Star Tribune