MINNEAPOLIS — Twins right-hander Anthony Swarzak has aspirations of one day returning to the starting rotation.
For one day, at least, he had that chance.
Swarzak started Wednesday’s game against Cleveland as a spot starter when Minnesota’s Kyle Gibson was scratched with lower back stiffness. Though Swarzak found out about his start less than 24 hours before it happened, his outing went better than the Twins could have hoped for. Swarzak allowed just one run on two hits in five innings of work as he picked up the win in Minnesota’s 3-1 victory.
It remains to be seen if Swarzak earned himself another start, but Wednesday’s results were impressive given the fact that Swarzak was so antsy for his first start in nearly two years that he didn’t fall asleep until 3:15 a.m.
"I’m curious to see how I could pitch when I actually get some sleep," Swarzak joked after the win.
Swarak, a second-round pick in 2004, began his career with Minnesota as a starter and made 12 starts as a rookie in 2009. He didn’t pitch at all in the majors in 2010 but started 11 games and pitched in 16 relief appearances in 2011. Since then, though, Swarzak had made just five starts prior to Wednesday’s outing, all of which came in spot duty in 2012. His last start prior to Wednesday was back on Oct. 2, 2012 at Toronto.
Swarzak’s numbers in 28 career starts weren’t great. He had a combined 6-17 record and a 5.79 ERA, and was 0-4 with a 12.06 ERA in four career starts against the Indians before he earned the victory Wednesday to slightly improve those numbers.
The lone run Swarzak allowed came in the top of the third inning. David Murphy singled to center for Cleveland’s first hit of the game off Swarzak. Murphy then advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Roberto Perez. After Swarzak walked No. 9 hitter Chris Dickerson and got Jason Kipnis to fly out, Jose Ramirez singled down the left field line to bring home Murphy for a 1-0 Indians lead.
But Swarzak got Michael Brantley to line out to shortstop Eduardo Nunez, who made a diving grab to rob Brantley of an RBI and end the third inning.
"That was the play of the game, hands down," Swarzak said of Nunez’s catch. "That was why we won. Great diving play."
That play helped to keep it a 1-0 game, and Minnesota tied it in the bottom of the third. The Twins took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fifth on Brian Dozier’s two-out double, which put Swarzak in line for the win.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said before the game that he expected to get around 60 pitches from Swarzak, who threw 61 through the first four innings. But the right-hander went back out for the fifth and finished the game with 74 pitches, easily the most he’s thrown this year.
"We got 60. We just added a few," Gardenhire said. "After talking with (pitching coach Rick Anderson), he was going along. He came in after the fourth inning. We said, ‘How we doing? You took a couple deep breaths out there.’ . . . I know he’s going to say (he’s) fine, but he says, ‘I’m good.’ So Andy said we can stretch him into the 70s here. You saw his last inning, a very good inning."
Swarzak didn’t appear tired at all in the fifth, even though he had surpassed his season high for pitches thrown. He got David Murphy to pop out to second base before striking out Roberto Perez and Chris Dickerson to end the inning.
When asked by reporters after the game if he’d been given any indication that this is an extended opportunity for him to start, Swarzak said he had not. With the starting rotation a bit in flux at this point, it’s not out of the question to think that Swarzak may earn another start at some point.
For today, though, he was happy to simply enjoy his first start since 2012 — and his first win as a starter since September of 2011.
"The most important thing is to get the win, give your team an opportunity to win the game," Swarzak said. "I don’t know what’s going to happen. And to be honest with you, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, as long as I have a jersey in my locker, I’m happy because it means I’m pitching and I have an opportunity to continue to have a good career."
Twins DFA Guerrier: After Wednesday’s game, the Twins announced they have designated reliever Matt Guerrier for assignment or release. Minnesota will recall pitcher Ryan Pressly from Triple-A Rochester to take Guerrier’s spot on the 25-man roster.
"A very tough moment here, because Matty Guerrier means a lot to a lot of us in here in this organization and in this clubhouse," Gardenhire said. "A first-class guy, and a really tough moment here. It kind of takes away from a big win."
Guerrier signed with the Twins this offseason after spending the 2013 season with the Dodgers and Cubs. He began his major league career with Minnesota, pitching for the Twins from 2004-2010. Guerrier was one of three former Twins brought back by the organization this year, including infielder Jason Bartlett and outfielder Jason Kubel. None of the three remain on the roster.
In 27 games this year, the 35-year-old Guerrier had a 3.86 ERA in 28 innings of work. His last game with the Twins came on Tuesday, when he allowed four runs in the ninth inning against Cleveland.
Pressly, 25, made his major-league debut with the Twins last year as a Rule 5 draft pick but has yet to pitch in the majors this season. In 35 relief appearances with Rochester this year, Pressly posted a 2.98 ERA with 63 strikeouts and 21 walks in 60 1/3 innings.