Ober settles in, provides glimpse at potential

September 22nd, 2022

KANSAS CITY -- It has been a September that the Twins won’t care to remember. But one of the benefits of the 6-14 month has been getting right-hander Bailey Ober back from a long stint on the injured list to evaluate how he might fit into the pitching plans for the future.

After missing several months with a groin/core injury, Ober made his second appearance since returning to the rotation on Wednesday and wound up keeping his team in the game through five innings despite a shaky start. Although the Twins wound up taking a 5-2 loss to the Royals at Kauffman Stadium, Ober could take solace in the fact that he settled down as his outing wore on.

Ober wound up allowing seven hits and three runs through his five innings, but only one of those runs came after the first.

“I didn’t feel the best out there with stuff and location,” Ober said. “But getting through five innings was big, just for the bullpen and especially after how the first inning went.”

Ober had delivered five innings of one-hit ball in his previous outing against Cleveland, but the Royals started the night offensively with four straight hitters reaching base. The scoring was highlighted by MJ Melendez’s leadoff homer.

Ober limited the first-inning damage to two runs and turned up the efficiency to keep his team within one run when he left the game.

“He struggled early with some command and just kind of settling into a rhythm,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “The rest of the outing was of better quality. He started mixing all his pitches.”

The Twins are hopeful that Ober can finish the season strong and establish himself as a rotation fixture with an eye toward 2023. Minnesota also wants to see signs of quality plate appearances from some young hitters over the final two weeks, and Matt Wallner stepped up in that category on Wednesday.

Wallner had a couple of two-out RBI hits in lefty-on-lefty matchups against Royals starter Daniel Lynch. Since being called up from Triple-A St. Paul, Wallner is hitting .304 in 23 at-bats.

“[Wallner] has competed very well, regardless of who he is facing,” Baldelli said. “There are some offspeed pitches where he is finding ways to compete against them. When he makes a pass at the ball, it’s violent and with intent. If he barrels it up, it’s going somewhere quickly. So, I have been very happy with what I’ve seen from him.”

The big problem on Wednesday was that only Wallner could come through with the big hit. The Twins (73-76) dropped another game in the American League Central standings and are now nine games behind first-place Cleveland with 13 to go.

“The runs are tough to come by right now,” Baldelli said. “You just have to find a way, whether it’s manufacturing or having a couple of guys on and getting a big swing.”