Clay Rapada isn’t here to serve exclusively as a left-handed specialist. He’ll also be needed to retire right-handed hitters.
“He’s a guy who has the ability to defend himself against some right-handed hitters, too, so we feel confident he’ll be able at times to be able to pitch a clean, full inning,” manager Buck Showalter said. “As our rotation gets straightened out a little bit, hopefully the need for longer relief stints isn’t as prevalent.”
Left-handers went 1-for-19 against Rapada last season. Rapada has held them to a .186 average in his career, while right-handers hit .292 against him.
Showalter has noticed that teams are beginning to stack left-handers back-to-back in the lineups, so Rapada could come in handy, especially with Michael Gonzalez sporting a 10.38 ERA.
Rapada logged only two innings at Triple-A Norfolk before joining the club today. He hasn’t pitched since April 12. Needless to say, he’s available tonight.
Here’s more from Showalter:
“J.J. (Hardy) had a good day today, first day he had some real marked improvement, so that was encouraging. Brian (Matusz) came in today pain-free. He threw some at 60 and 90 feet and didn’t feel anything, so that’s progressing well. I would caution everybody that even when he gets to the point where he can go off the mound, there’s a lot of steps he’s going to have to cross over before he’s pitching here again.
“It’s not going to be a one- or two-start thing in the minor leagues necessarily. You’re not going to bring him up here with three innings under his belt. There’s a lot of things you can’t assume anymore. I wouldn’t think anything’s imminent as far as, ‘OK, he’s ready to throw off the mound,’ and we send him wherever and he throws one time and joins us. That’s not going to happen.”
A big key is whether Matusz shows up at the minor league complex tomorrow feeling as good as he does today.
As I wrote in my last entry, the Orioles are encouraged by Hardy’s progress, but they don’t expect to activate him when the 15 days are up. They’re being extremely careful with him. Oblique injuries can linger.
Justin Duchscherer is eligible to come off the 60-day disabled list on May 30.
“Duchscherer felt good today, he felt better,” Showalter said.
Turning his attention back to Hardy, Showalter said, “He’s starting to see improvement from day to day, the way it feels at the site of the injury, so that’s good.”
Asked if he had a message for his struggling team, Showalter replied, “Certainly, I’m not going to broadcast it, but I trust them. They’re good people with good track records, and they’ll be there. Sometimes, it’s not instant gratification. We’re not going to get in that woe is me, self-pity. You can’t let that permeate. That mentality can’t be allowed and it’s not in our lockerroom and it won’t be. Most people are glad you have issues. Every club in baseball is going to go through some periods, and it’s how you handle it. There’s a lot of want-to there and some frustration that I figure that, at some point, somebody’s going to pay for.
“We have good people in there that I’m going to continue to trust. Maybe I’m a little too half-full guy. I think we’ve got some good times ahead of us and we hope it starts tonight.”
Showalter isn’t looking to make drastic lineup changes to ignite the offense, though he’s examined his options. Again, he trusts the track records.
The Twins lineup doesn’t include first baseman Justin Morneau. Here it is:
Denard Span CF
Matt Tolbert 2B
Jason Kubel RF
Jim Thome DH
Delmon Young LF
Michael Cuddyer 1B
Danny Valencia 3B
Drew Butera C
Alexi Casilla SS
Francisco Liriano LHP