MINNEAPOLIS—After seven pro seasons, two major elbow operations, a bout of wildness and a new job description, the finish line is in sight for righthander Alex Wimmers.
Except it’s actually the starting line.
Wimmers, the 2010 first-round pick after back-to-back Big Ten Conference pitcher of the year seasons at Ohio State, is finally within reach of a callup, a goal that appeared hopeless several times during his pro career.
“He’s had plenty of reasons to be discouraged. He’s had so many setbacks,” former general manager Terry Ryan said. “He’s having success now, and I’m happy for Alex. He shouldn’t give up.”
Nobody would have been surprised if he had, though. Wimmers missed most of the 2011 season when his control abruptly went haywire, leaving him unable to throw a strike. He sat out much of 2012 unsuccessfully trying to avoid Tommy John surgery, then needed a second operation in 2013 to repair a nerve in his pitching elbow.
His ERA hovered around 5.00 at Double-A Chattanooga last July when the Twins tried a last-ditch tactic to save his career: They moved him to the bullpen.
Ryan cited Wimmers’ four pitches—a cutter and a curveball to go with his 92 mph fastball and a changeup that can produce lots of ugly swings—for the turnaround.
“He’s got good stuff,” Ryan said. “The injuries didn’t take away from that.”
And if the injuries shook Wimmers’ confidence, it doesn’t show. He may be 27 years old, but he has transformed himself into an effective setup reliever. Through 36 appearances this year, he recorded a 3.80 ERA with 8.2 strikeouts and 3.0 walks per nine innings.
He’s put himself in position, after all these years, for a September callup, perhaps even an earlier opportunity.
“He’s come a long way back,” Ryan said. “You just can’t rush health.”
• Owner Jim Pohlad fired Ryan, the Twins’ general manager for 18 of the past 22 seasons, on July 18. The club hopes to have a permanent replacement in place by the end of the season.
• Outfielder Alex Kirilloff, drafted 15th overall in June, singled in his first pro at-bat for Rookie-level Elizabethton, and he collected hits in his first eight games and in 21 of his first 25, including four home runs.