Moran called up; Twins remember Sept. 11

September 11th, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS -- says he hasn't yet gotten the chance to meet Johan Santana, even though the former Twins ace often hangs around during Spring Training. Even without a chance for Moran to pick the brain of the changeup master, the young lefty's changeup could be the key to a successful career.

That career started on Saturday, when the 24-year-old Moran, the No. 26 prospect in the organization, received his first Major League callup to the Minnesota bullpen to complete a dominant rise from Double-A to the Majors, largely on the strength of that changeup.

"Exciting to see a good, young arm that we've had in our system," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "Very good stuff. Getting him to see some Major League hitters, I think, will be very good for him experience-wise. ... I think there's still a lot of gains to be made with this young man, but a very talented guy."

Though walks have been an issue for Moran at every level, the strikeout numbers have been eye-popping, including 109 in 67 1/3 innings across Double-A Wichita and Triple-A St. Paul this season. He posted a 2.41 ERA in 35 appearances among the two levels, including a 3.03 ERA with 45 strikeouts and 18 walks in 29 2/3 frames for the Saints after he was bumped up a level in July.

Moran's 41.8 percent strikeout rate ranked sixth among all Minor League pitchers with at least 50 innings pitched this season.

Pitching almost exclusively in relief since Rookie ball in 2017, Moran has worked to develop his slider as a third pitch, but the fastball-changeup combination has already been good enough to carry him to the Twins, where he'll look to establish himself as a left-handed relief option on next season's roster.

Since Moran picked up the changeup from a pitching coach as a youngster in Puerto Rico, he's had the conviction to attack with it, relying on its movement, not necessarily trying to model it after anyone else's offering. It's a good enough pitch in diving away from right-handed swings that the young lefty has actually been better against right-handed hitters this season, holding them to a .425 OPS, as compared to a .577 OPS by lefties.

"I think you have to throw it in the strike zone," Moran said. "Have conviction that you’re going to throw it for quality, for depth, and that’s the key to being successful at this level."

As soon as Triple-A manager Toby Gardenhire informed him of the news around midnight following Friday's Saints game, Moran was so excited and anxious for his debut that he could hardly sleep, getting maybe two hours of rest after waking his mother with a call to inform her of the good news.

He’ll likely get a chance to soothe those nerves quickly, as the Twins typically try to get their call-ups into games without much delay -- and this is an opportunity he’s been ready for throughout the season, as he always anticipated that he could find himself in Minneapolis before year’s end.

"I knew I could do a good job, and if I did the little things to do a good job, I could realize my dreams to be here at this level," Moran said.

Twins hold 9/11 remembrance

Twenty years after the United States was forever changed by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in New York, the Twins and Royals joined Major League Baseball in honoring the lives lost on that day and the sacrifices made by first responders and service members with a pregame ceremony before Saturday's game.

"Even to this day, it's still hard to make sense of some of the things that were happening," Baldelli said.

The Twins commemorated the lives lost on and since that day with the placement of six wreaths around the pitcher's mound representing law enforcement, firefighters, emergency medical services, the U.S. Armed Forces, American citizens and international citizens, with an additional in-ballpark element present throughout the game in remembrance of the 13 service members killed near the Kabul Airport in Afghanistan on Aug. 26.

In addition to video excerpts on the main scoreboard and a flyover by F-16 jets of the Minnesota National Guard's 148th fighter wing, the Twins also offered ceremonial first pitches to Erik Aamoth, the brother of Gordy Aamoth Jr., a victim of the World Trade Center attacks, and Devin O'Brien, nephew of Tom Burnett Jr., a Minnesotan who helped to lead the charge in retaking United Flight 93 from hijackers.

"This is a day to remember everyone we lost and all the heroic things that were done and the people that are out there -- that were there -- to help and serve others at the time," Baldelli said.