Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

Finally hale, Hardy thrilled to be back on mound

@dohyoungpark
February 18, 2020

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It's unclear what Blaine Hardy did to anger the Twins' scheduling czars this Spring Training, but he and Tyler Duffey were the first two pitchers tasked with attacking the murderers' row of Nelson Cruz, Josh Donaldson and Eddie Rosario in live batting practice on Monday. Duffey

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It's unclear what Blaine Hardy did to anger the Twins' scheduling czars this Spring Training, but he and Tyler Duffey were the first two pitchers tasked with attacking the murderers' row of Nelson Cruz, Josh Donaldson and Eddie Rosario in live batting practice on Monday.

Duffey was one of the best relievers in baseball last season, but Hardy is a non-roster invitee coming off a season-ending injury and fighting for a spot on the Opening Day squad. It didn't matter: Hardy was just glad to be back on a mound, pain-free.

"It feels great," Hardy said. "I threw the live BP, and it's sore. But it's the normal sore. It's not the worried sore where it's like, 'Oh, I don't know if it works.' We're heading in the right direction once we hit games."

At first Hardy was worried, because neither Cruz nor Donaldson even came close to swinging the bat.

"'What did you see?'" he asked them afterward. "'From my viewpoint, you knew what was coming, and you spit on every pitch.'"

The two sluggers laughed and assured the 32-year-old left-hander that his stuff -- lots of changeups, some cutters and curveballs, and a handful of fastballs -- actually looked quite good. Cruz, Donaldson and catcher Mitch Garver simply wanted to use these early sessions to get their timing down before doing any swinging.

So, that was reassuring -- as was the fact that Hardy could throw his cutter at all.

Hardy cut his season with the Tigers short last August to receive a platelet-rich-plasma injection as treatment for a partially torn flexor tendon in his pitching arm. Throughout 2019 he had been pitching through discomfort that limited him from using his cutter and instead forced him to rely on his changeup -- and hitters knew it.

Hardy had a 3.60 ERA in 194 games -- including 13 starts -- over his first five Major League seasons with Detroit. That jumped to a 4.47 ERA last season with the worst FIP, strikeout rate and home run rate of his career.

"I've always been OK with hitters sitting on my changeup, because I'll take my best pitch over your best swing," he said. "But the more weapons you have, the better repertoire you have for pitches, the easier it is for you to pitch if you know how to use them."

Now that Hardy has his full arsenal at his disposal, he hopes to hit the ground running with a planned appearance in the exhibition game against the University of Minnesota on Friday. He did start for the Tigers for a while in '18, but reading the room, he knows that his opportunity to make the big league team is almost certainly as a reliever.

Once Rich Hill is placed on the 60-day injured list, the Twins will have two open spots on their 40-man roster. The projected pitching staff skews heavily right-handed, and there's a possible need for a long reliever. Hardy hopes that he can stretch himself out this spring as a potential fit.

Casting that aside, though, he is just thrilled for a fresh, healthy start with the forward-facing Twins organization.

"You say that the grass isn't always greener on the other side, but this is a true testament to it being greener on the other side," he said. "I'm seeing a new form of baseball in this locker room with how analytical they are and how conscious they are of health, whether it's staying hydrated, eating right or getting the right amount of sleep. And then on top of that, they have very good knowledge of how to address how you feel on a daily basis."

The gang's (mostly) all here

All but two players reported to camp in time for Monday's first day of full-squad drills. As previously reported, right-hander Fernando Romero is stuck in the Dominican Republic as he sorts out visa/immigration issues. Non-roster infielder Wilfredo Tovar has also not yet reported. The Twins have not offered any updates on either situation.

Odds and ends

• Sergio Romo returned to action on Tuesday and participated in fielding drills with his group. He was sidelined on Saturday with a very mild left shoulder strain.

• José Berríos, Sean Poppen, Tyler Clippard, Taylor Rogers and Sam Clay threw to Major League hitters in the stadium as part of the second day of live batting practice. Catcher Ryan Jeffers, ranked the No. 9 prospect in the organization by MLB Pipeline, capped his hitting session with a tape-measure blast off Rogers that went over the left-field bleachers.

Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.