Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

Dobnak pleased with first test of spring tweaks

@dohyoungpark
February 21, 2020

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Randy Dobnak finally got his chance to start against a Division I college team. Who could have thought that would come after his first start in the Major League playoffs -- at Yankee Stadium against the Bronx Bombers, no less? "I was a little nervous for

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Randy Dobnak finally got his chance to start against a Division I college team. Who could have thought that would come after his first start in the Major League playoffs -- at Yankee Stadium against the Bronx Bombers, no less?

"I was a little nervous for my first D-I start, to be honest," Dobnak joked after his two innings on Friday night, when he showed Divison I coaches all over the country what they missed when nobody offered him a scholarship seven years ago. He cruised through the first two innings of the Twins' 16-0 victory over the University of Minnesota in an exhibition at Hammond Stadium. He struck out four batters and induced three ground balls on a tidy 26 pitches.

More importantly, though, Dobnak felt great about the first in-game usage of his offspeed pitches. He had worked late last season and throughout the offseason on the consistency of his slider release and on lowering the spin rate of his changeup (to add more depth to the pitch) and saw immediate results against live hitters.

Dobnak and other young pitchers have a funny balance to strike in Spring Training. Dobnak, Devin Smeltzer and Lewis Thorpe are competing with Jhoulys Chacín to make the Opening Day roster, with one open spot remaining in the starting rotation. But Spring Training also offers an important opportunity for Dobnak to feel out these adjustments against hitters before the results start to matter in the regular season.

How does he manage both those goals?

Early in the count, he said, he'll treat it as a normal at-bat and try to attack hitters according to the scouting reports and his game plan. (That was tougher on Friday against college hitters, who don't come with scouting reports.) Then, if opportunities present themselves, he will try out some tweaks.

"For me, if I get ahead in the count, I've got some pitches I can work with," Dobnak said. "I'll try to work on some stuff I've been trying to do with the sinker away and the changeup depth, even get my slider more consistent. For me, if I'm ahead in the count, I'll try to work on that stuff."

So far, so good.

Twins grateful to Gophers for trip to Florida

Cool as the opportunity is for the University of Minnesota's baseball team to fly down to Fort Myers for a game against the Twins, Friday also marked a logistical challenge for head coach John Anderson and his Golden Gophers, who had to fly back to the Twin Cities late Friday night in a quick turnaround.

Baldelli made it known that he appreciated that Anderson and his program came this far out of their way ahead of their home opener against TCU at U.S. Bank Stadium on Saturday night.

"It was a beautiful night to see the Gophers down here and to see John Anderson," Baldelli said. "We want to thank them for coming down and spending time with us. I think everyone was very happy to see coach Anderson down here. It was a cool day."

Rooker fine after being hit in helmet

Twins left fielder Brent Rooker was hit in the helmet by a pitch in the top of the second inning and exited the game. He said after the game that he cleared the concussion protocol and should be fine, though he initially experienced some slight ringing and headaches.

University of Minnesota starting pitcher Trent Schoeberl had struggled with his command throughout his outing -- featuring four wild pitches -- and lost the pitch to Rooker high and inside. Rooker was briefly motionless before he rose to his knees and then his feet after being examined by athletic trainer Matt Biancuzzo and Baldelli. He walked off the field under his own power and was replaced by pinch-runner Mark Contreras.

Rooker is the Twins' No. 7 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, and is expected to see a significant amount of action in the corner outfield this spring, while also doing side work at first base.

Up next

It's going to be a fun reunion for everybody on the Twins' coaching staff when the club heads north Saturday to LECOM Park in Bradenton, Fla., for the Grapefruit League opener against the Pirates and new manager Derek Shelton, who served as the Twins' bench coach until last season. Left-hander Devin Smeltzer will take the mound at 12:05 p.m. CT for his first appearance of the spring, but don't expect too many of the position-player regulars to make the bus trip.

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