MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Twins had extra arms in the bullpen after bringing up several pitchers as September call-ups. That meant insurance in case starting pitchers failed to go deep into games.
After a brief outing by left-hander Tommy Milone on Tuesday against the White Sox, Minnesota needed all the help it could get from the relievers.
Milone lasted just 3 2/3 innings, his second-shortest start of the 2014 season, and he allowed three runs in the process. While he didn’t get the loss in Minnesota’s 6-3 defeat in 10 innings, he forced manager Ron Gardenhire to use a combination of six pitchers for the final 6 1/3 innings.
"He said in the dugout he just didn’t have anything coming out," Gardenhire said of Milone. "He was trying to throw it and just didn’t feel like it was coming out of his hand good. Just not a good night for him. We ended up using a lot of bullpen."
The final reliever, Lester Oliveros, served up two home runs in the 10th inning to earn the loss in his first game in the majors since 2012. The Twins shouldn’t have needed to use as many relievers as they did, though, if Milone could have gone deeper into Tuesday’s game.
It was smooth sailing early for Milone, who was making his fifth start in a Twins uniform since Minnesota traded Sam Fuld to Oakland in exchange for the left-hander. He cruised through a 1-2-3 first inning and retired the first two batters in the second before the wheels started to fall off.
Milone walked White Sox left fielder Michael Taylor in his first major league at-bat of the season, and followed that up with a two-out, two-run home run off the bat of Tyler Flowers that tied the game at 2-2. Milone then allowed a single to Marcus Semien and a RBI double to Carlos Sanchez as Chicago claimed a 3-2 lead.
"It seemed like I was cruising there for a little bit, and I kind of fell out of rhythm," Milone said. "They did a good job of getting on base and putting pressure on me. After the first inning, I wasn’t really making good pitches. Hats off to them for forcing the issue and getting themselves in good position to score."
It was another two-out walk that ultimately led to an early exit for Milone. He recorded two outs in the top of the fourth before walking Alexei Ramirez on his 86th pitch of the night. It also proved to be his final pitch as Gardenhire walked to the mound to pull the struggling lefty from the game.
Milone said things started to take a turn for the worse when he stopped attacking hitters like he did in the early going. He started to fall behind batters, as was evidenced by the four walks in 3 2/3 innings.
That’s been a theme throughout Milone’s brief tenure with the Twins. He’s now walked 11 batters in 20 2/3 innings while striking out 12 over that stretch. After the three runs he gave up Tuesday, his ERA in his five starts with Minnesota jumped to 7.84.
"I need to get back to attacking the zone, staying low, just being aggressive," Milone said.
Milone had success in Oakland before a crowded rotation forced the A’s to send him to Triple-A Sacramento. He was 6-3 with a 3.55 ERA with Oakland before the All-Star Game (and his demotion to Triple-A).
Minnesota was hoping Milone could recapture some of his first-half numbers in the second half of 2014, but after another disappointing start, Milone hasn’t found his groove with the Twins just yet.