Mahle feels 'normal' and hopes to avoid IL stint

August 20th, 2022

MINNEAPOLIS -- All the Twins have said for now is that right-hander Tyler Mahle almost certainly won't be making his next start in turn, which would have been Tuesday in Houston. As for the factors beyond that -- whether he'll require a stint on the injured list or when he'll next throw -- they'll wait and see in the coming days.

But in an encouraging sign, Mahle said Friday that he felt normal and hoped he could avoid the IL altogether after he was pulled from his Wednesday start against the Royals with right shoulder fatigue, though it'll be up to the Twins to make that decision after they see how he responds to treatment.

"I felt like it didn’t hurt to throw the ball, so I felt fine in that sense," Mahle said. "And then at the same time, I was making pitches and getting guys out. It’d be one thing if I was walking a bunch of guys and throwing the ball down the middle, scary, but it wasn’t like that."

An MRI taken of Mahle's shoulder did not reveal any structural damage, and he said he wasn't feeling any more pain or soreness than he normally would after a start. He simply described the whole incident as "weird" in that his arm felt normal in that last outing; it simply wasn't producing the velocity he was expecting to see.

Mahle will be held out of throwing for several days before the Twins try to build him back up, manager Rocco Baldelli said, after the right-hander's fastball was down by more than four mph from his season average Wednesday, resulting in his exit during the third inning. Mahle said he was still able to lift weights as usual Friday and felt "really good."

"I think in the next three or four days, we'll know what his path forward is going to be, or we'll have a lot better idea of where he's at," Baldelli said. "He's going to be in the training room, he's going to be getting some stuff done in there. And we're going to see if we can calm down whatever it is that is in there."

Whether this ultimately leads to an IL stint, the Twins appear to have dodged the worst with their newly acquired frontline starter, who has allowed four runs in 14 1/3 innings across three starts (a 2.51 ERA) since arriving from the Reds at the Aug. 2 Trade Deadline in exchange for a trio of top 30 prospects.

The right shoulder was a particular area of concern for the 27-year-old because he had already spent three weeks on the IL with a right shoulder strain while with the Reds in July.

The Twins' upcoming stretch of schedule isn't rather forgiving in terms of having Mahle skip a start without ending up on the IL, considering Friday's series opener against the Rangers began a stretch of games on 13 consecutive days. But if they were to place Mahle on the IL, he would be out of action until September after likely having missed two starts.

If the Twins were to keep Mahle on the roster while skipping his next start, they could perhaps give that game to rookie Cole Sands, who is already on the roster as a long reliever, though Baldelli said Friday that Sands "fits pretty good" in that role. They could also call up Devin Smeltzer from Triple-A St. Paul for a spot start or two, but that would likely entail them going without a long reliever for that period.

"We haven’t made any final decisions yet on exactly what we’re going to do this upcoming week," Baldelli said. "We have a couple options, but we’re not quite there yet. And some of the things that happen through today and the next couple days might drastically affect what goes on the following week."