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Hildenberger's mechanics improving at Triple-A

May 25, 2019

MINNEAPOLIS -- Despite what his inflated numbers at Triple-A would suggest, the Twins are quite pleased with the mechanical adjustments that Trevor Hildenberger has been making in the Minor Leagues and how he has progressed with the plan that the coaching staff had developed for him when they optioned him

MINNEAPOLIS -- Despite what his inflated numbers at Triple-A would suggest, the Twins are quite pleased with the mechanical adjustments that Trevor Hildenberger has been making in the Minor Leagues and how he has progressed with the plan that the coaching staff had developed for him when they optioned him to Rochester on May 15.

Hildenberger allowed one hit in a scoreless inning of relief on Friday against Pawtucket after having given up seven earned runs across three frames in his first two Minor League appearances. But that doesn't matter so much to pitching coach Wes Johnson and the Twins as does what they see on video with his mechanics and fastball usage, which they feel are making clear strides.

"His last [outing] was really good," Johnson said. "There has been some times where he's given up some hits, but I told him, 'Trevor, we're fine with that. You've got to get comfortable throwing the fastball again. So if you have to throw more fastballs than you normally would in an outing, we're fine with that. We want that back because it's going to help your other stuff.' So you can see the progress in his video."

Though he began the season with 11 consecutive scoreless appearances and allowed only five of 19 inherited runners to score in that stretch, the 28-year-old Hildenberger had been optioned to the Minors for the first time in his career after yielding 13 runs in 6 1/3 innings over his next eight outings, including multiple runs allowed in six of those games.

For pitchers like Hildenberger with more unique arm angles, part of the difficulty lies in diagnosing an issue that might not necessarily be as apparent to both the eye and on video as it would be for someone who throws out of a more traditional slot.

But Johnson said his analytical team -- including advance scouts Colby Suggs and Frankie Padulo and pitching analyst Josh Kalk -- dug through Hildenberger's old film from when he was effective in 2017 and compared it to the reliever's difficult stretches from both '18 and this season. They found differences in his ability to throw to half the plate and how it impacted the movement of his pitches.

"You've really got to tear apart that haystack to find that needle," Johnson said. "Our analytics people are awesome. ... Their value, you can't put a price on it. It wasn't something that we could see immediately, because those guys, their release points are so unique, and camera angle matters," Johnson said. "That's the other hardest part with those guys. ... With the conventional guys, you can see that sometimes without that."

Hildenberger had allowed a slugging percentage of .867 on his slider and .688 on his sinker this season. The Twins are ultimately looking for him to redirect the line of his delivery, tweak his arm slot and re-establish his fastball -- which they hope will help all of his offerings move and play more effectively.

Javier activated by Cedar Rapids
Shortstop Wander Javier, the Twins' No. 4 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, was activated by the Class A Cedar Rapids Kernels on Saturday. Javier was one of the top prospects signed out of the 2015-16 international class but has played only one season in the United States, in 2017, after missing most of '16 with a hamstring injury and all of '18 with a torn labrum.

Javier, 20, had been working in extended spring camp after suffering a right quad strain during a Spring Training game with the Twins on March 15.

Injury update
Nelson Cruz, whose left wrist is still sore but improving, continues to be cautious with his recovery and noted that the Twins' current success at the plate helps him avoid pushing his recovery timeline. The Twins did not plan to have Cruz hit again on Saturday or Sunday.

"I don't want it to be something I'm dealing with all year long," Cruz said. "I want to make sure when I go out there it's 100 percent. Only when I'm swinging."

Mitch Garver caught a bullpen session on Saturday and has done straight-line running and taken batting practice as he continues his recovery from a left high ankle sprain sustained on a home-plate collision with Shohei Ohtani on May 14. The Twins will evaluate how Garver feels on Sunday before making a decision on his continued progression.

If Garver isn't too sore, he could start running the bases before the Twins finish their homestand on Tuesday.

"He has some general soreness, which is, I think, to be expected as he's coming back from an ankle sprain," chief baseball officer Derek Falvey said. "I'm not sure he's not going to feel some general soreness even when he's playing at some point, but it's a good sign for him."