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Boyer's resurgence has Twins confident late

Since early-season funk, righty has handled eighth-inning role with ease
MLB.com @RhettBollinger

PITTSBURGH -- It's been quite a transformation for Twins reliever Blaine Boyer.

After posting a 15.00 ERA through his first four outings, the right-hander turned it around to toss 17 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings before giving up a solo homer to Pirates star Andrew McCutchen in Wednesday's 4-3, 13-inning win. Boyer has been a key part of the Twins' surprising 23-17 start to the season, as he's been lights-out in the eighth inning while Casey Fien recovers from a right shoulder strain on the 15-day disabled list.

PITTSBURGH -- It's been quite a transformation for Twins reliever Blaine Boyer.

After posting a 15.00 ERA through his first four outings, the right-hander turned it around to toss 17 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings before giving up a solo homer to Pirates star Andrew McCutchen in Wednesday's 4-3, 13-inning win. Boyer has been a key part of the Twins' surprising 23-17 start to the season, as he's been lights-out in the eighth inning while Casey Fien recovers from a right shoulder strain on the 15-day disabled list.

Boyer, who has a 2.49 ERA on the season and a 0.48 ERA over his last 16 appearances, said a tweak to his mechanics helped him with his turnaround, but that a team meeting called by Twins manager Paul Molitor after the club's 1-6 start helped put him at ease and got him back on the right track.

"I feel good," Boyer said. "I feel like anybody in that bullpen. We're all wanting to get in there. But I feel really good. Whenever Mollie wants me in, I'm ready to go."

Video: MIN@PIT: Boyer gets double play to escape the jam

Molitor has called on Boyer in a variety of situations and hasn't been afraid to use him for multiple-inning stints. Boyer recorded five big outs in Tuesday's 8-5 win over the Pirates, inducing an inning-ending double play to get out of a jam in the seventh. The Twins are 8-1 in the right-hander's last nine appearances.

"He's obviously hot," Molitor said. "He has a good command of his breaking pitches, and he's throwing plenty hard. Whether it's right-handers or left-handers, he's very effective."

Boyer, 33, has struggled against left-handed hitters in his nine-year big league career, including last season, when he posted a 3.57 ERA in 40 1/3 innings with the Padres, but lefties hit .305/.339/.475 against him. But this year, he's impressed against lefties, holding them to a .111/.200/.148 line. He's mixed in more curveballs this season to go along with his fastball and slider, and it's helped him keep hitters guessing.

"As much as anything, he's using all three pitches against lefties and righties," Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony said. "I know that was the knock on him, that when he struggled, it came against lefties mostly. But when you change speeds and throw enough strikes, you have a chance to get lefties and righties out."

Boyer's development into a top setup reliever -- combined with closer Glen Perkins' impressive start to the year with a Major League-leading 15 saves through Wednesday -- has the Twins feeling good about their chances late in games.

"We have all the confidence in the world in him right now," third baseman Trevor Plouffe said of Boyer. "We know if we can get to the seventh, eighth, ninth [with a lead], we have a good chance. [Lefty Aaron] Thompson has been good, too, and then if we get to Blaine in the eighth and Perk in the ninth, we're confident late in games, for sure."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast.

Minnesota Twins, Blaine Boyer