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Devin Smeltzer Transitions Smoothly To Starting Role



When the Twins traded Brian Dozier to the Dodgers last July, their three-player return package included a lefthanded reliever they weren’t certain what to do with.

But Devin Smeltzer had a suggestion.

"He came in and said he really wants to start again. We said, ‘OK, here’s the path to doing that. Now show us. Go get it,’” said Derek Falvey, the Twins’ chief baseball officer and the man who traded for the New Jersey native. "He committed himself to the challenge, and now he’s put himself in a great spot.”

That spot might be Target Field before long.

Smeltzer, a 2016 fifth-round pick of the Dodgers, reported to spring training stronger and more dedicated to moving up, Falvey said, and armed with a cutter and changeup that are missing more bats than ever.

"He just gets on the mound and attacks the strike zone,” Falvey said. "He’s not afraid of anything.”

The fearless may come from his past.

A grapefruit-sized mass was discovered in Smeltzer's abdomen when he was 9 years old, but he survived and the cancer has been in remission for seven years.

Now 23, Smeltzer is a fiery competitor on the mound who proved his rotation worthiness by allowing only three runs in his five April starts at Double-A Pensacola. His 0.60 ERA earned him a callup to Triple-A Rochester, where his breakthrough season kept chugging along. In total, Smeltzer has a 1.15 ERA in 54.2 innings and opponents are hitting just .199 against him this season.

"He’s got four pitches and the ability to use all of them in all parts of the zone,” Falvey said.

Smeltzer was getting a little lost in the Dodgers’ system, and L.A. transitioned him to relief work, so the Twins didn’t know exactly what they had when they acquired him. Now?

"A lefthanded starter, [velocity up to] 90-93 with four pitches. It’s a pretty good thing for us to have at Triple-A,” Falvey said. "He’s pretty close to being ready for us up here.”

NOTES

— After hitting .342 for Pensacola, second baseman Luis Arraez had only been at Triple-A for three days when he got an unexpected thrill. With Nelson Cruz needing a few extra days to rest a sore wrist, the Twins gave Arraez a brief, one-week sneak preview of the majors. Arraez doubled in his MLB debut in Seattle, and he played both second base and shortstop.

 Royce Lewis, the Twins’ top prospect, created controversy by doing a few pushups on second base after doubling for high Class A Fort Myers against Bradenton on May 16. In Lewis’ next at-bat, Bradenton pitcher Gavin Wallace threw at Lewis for the stunt and was promptly ejected. 

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