MINNEAPOLIS — Cole De Vries’ major league career is just seven starts old, and so far it’s hard to get a read on what the right-hander can offer to the Minnesota Twins’ rotation. The Eden Prairie, Minn., native and former Golden Gopher has had several impressive starts since making his MLB debut on May 24, but he’s also had several forgettable outings.
Luckily for De Vries, Thursday was yet another solid performance. He gave up just one run on five hits in six innings against Baltimore, but the Twins bullpen couldn’t hold a 3-1 lead as Minnesota lost 4-3 to split the four-game series at Target Field.
Thursday’s outing came one start after De Vries was shelled for seven runs on six hits in five innings against Oakland. Prior to that, De Vries had perhaps his best start of the year, holding the Texas Rangers scoreless on the road for seven innings.
“It’s clearly night and day, just in the overall results,” De Vries said of his last two starts after Thursday’s game. “I felt a little shaky out there, didn’t feel like I had my real good command in the first few innings. Then as the game progressed, I felt like I was starting to get back to where I was before the break, being able to locate all my pitches pretty well.”
The only run De Vries gave up was in the form of a 415-foot solo homer to right field by Baltimore left fielder Chris Davis in the second inning. That cut an early Twins lead in half after Minnesota’s offense spotted De Vries two runs in the bottom of the first.
One inning after the Davis home run, De Vries worked himself into another jam, something he’s admittedly grown accustomed to in his brief Twins career. He allowed a leadoff hit to Nick Markakis and then gave up a single to J.J. Hardy to put runners on first and second with no outs and the heart of the Orioles order due up. But Jim Thome and Adam Jones flew out to center and Matt Wieters hit a tapper back to De Vries for the final out of the inning.
“I’ve gotten myself into a few little stick situations like that,” De Vries said. “Most times, I’ve been able to come out of them. I’m real happy that I’ve been able to do that.”
From there, De Vries found a groove. After a leadoff walk to Wilson Betemit in the top of the fourth inning, De Vries retired the final nine batters he faced. That included strikeouts of Davis and Mark Reynolds in the fourth inning and a strikeout of Thome in the fifth.
De Vries left the game after 96 pitches in six innings, striking out five batters (which matched his total from the outing in Texas). He walked one and has now issued nine walks with 29 strikeouts in 41 innings.
“He used quality pitches. His fastball was moving in and out. His changeup was decent. His slider was good. He threw some curveballs when he had to,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He kept them off balance. He did a really, really nice job.”
Because Minnesota’s rotation has been such a question mark season — Carl Pavano and P.J. Walters are currently on the disabled list, Nick Blackburn was briefly demoted to Triple-A and left-hander Francisco Liriano could be on the trading block — there’s a chance De Vries could get several more starts in the majors this season to show the Twins what he’s capable of.
While he didn’t pick up the win Thursday, it was a demonstration that De Vries is capable of eating some innings — something the Twins’ overworked bullpen desperately needs.
“Every team needs that. The fewer innings the bullpen can throw week to week is what I’m concerned about, keeping those guys as fresh as we can,” De Vries said. “That’s our job is to go out there and eat up as many innings as possible. We’ve done a pretty good job of that lately.”