Stewart set to make Major League debut today
Former No. 4 overall pick will face Tigers in first start
DETROIT -- Kohl Stewart, the fourth overall pick in the 2013 MLB Draft, is in Detroit and will make his Major League debut Sunday when he starts against the Tigers.
Stewart was at a breakfast restaurant with his visiting parents in Rochester, N.Y., where he's been playing with the Triple-A Red Wings since the beginning of July, when he got a phone call from a number with an Ohio area code.
"I knew [Triple-A manager Joel Skinner] was from Ohio, and I was like, I think that's Skins," Stewart recalled Saturday. "So, I called him right back. We were all sitting in a booth, and he said, 'You're going to the big leagues.' A lot of emotions overtook everybody."
The Twins have not made the official roster move yet. Adalberto Mejia would have taken his turn in the rotation Sunday, but was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a left wrist strain.
Stewart's road to the Majors has been an unsteady one. He dealt with a shoulder injury two years ago and had left knee tendinitis that was "killing me" last season. Between the 2016 and 2017 seasons, Stewart made four trips to the disabled list.
"I never felt like myself, and I couldn't figure it out," said Stewart, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Twins' No. 28 prospect. "I was trying to pitch through it and maybe made some mistakes there. But some of those things you can't control, and sometimes you probably have to look at the way you're training, and I had to make some changes and give myself an opportunity to stay healthy for a full season."
Along with getting healthy, Stewart made some adjustments on the mound. He talked with the staff during Spring Training, and they decided to transition from a two-seam to a one-seam grip on his fastball. They also determined he needed to dial back on his fastball usage. The difference is not only in Stewart's confidence, but in the numbers. His groundout-to-flyout rate, for example, was a career-best 2.22 in the Minors this season.
"I try not to look too far into things like that, but there are obviously some answers in there," Stewart said. "I'm not as smart as some of the people they have looking at those things. When they do come to me with something and tell me to make some adjustments, I'm gonna trust what they have to say."
Manager Paul Molitor said Stewart had been on their radar in the past, but his up-and-down performance kept him out of the Majors. Molitor said the consistency is finally there now, and Stewart agreed.
"I didn't ever feel like I was really ready to do it until some starts this year where I was feeling like I was getting more confident," Stewart said. " … I feel like I'm more ready now than I ever have been."
• Unless there is a setback, Byron Buxton is expected to play Tuesday when the Twins start a two-game set against the Pirates, Molitor said. Buxton was placed on the 10-day DL with a left big toe fracture on May 30. Since then, he's been sent to rehab with Triple-A Rochester, but has been placed on the DL twice with a left wrist strain.
• Robbie Grossman will hit in the cage Sunday in Detroit and then continue his work on Monday's off-day, according to Molitor. From there, Grossman will take batting practice on the field Tuesday. Grossman has been on the 10-day DL since Monday with a right hamstring strain. Molitor said they're being cautious with Grossman because of how delicate hamstring injuries can be.
"There have been so many times when hamstrings have reoccurred because you feel you're on a good track, you're practicing well, and then the game is a different animal," Molitor said. "So, you have to be careful."
• Mejia will undergo more tests in the next couple days, Molitor said after the Twins' 4-3 win over the Tigers on Saturday. Molitor also mentioned that Mejia has a nerve traction injury and that he's been having discomfort in his forearm and up to his biceps.
"I think most of it is around a nerve injury, and that's why we had such a large area that was being affected," Molitor said, adding that he does not believe it's the ulnar nerve. " … I think it's probably above the elbow, not below."