Eden Prairie native Cole De Vries did everything asked of him for the Twins Saturday night.
By JOAN NIESENFS North
MINNEAPOLIS – Cole De Vries got two hours to make the Twins' decision harder.
As the 26th man on Minnesota's roster – per a new rule that allows teams to add a player for doubleheaders – the starting pitcher knew his spot in the majors was tenuous. But after a six-inning outing in which he gave up just one run on five hits, De Vries made manager Ron Gardenhire's decision a bit harder. He's still returning to Triple-A Rochester, but after his performance in the 5-1 win over the Royals, De Vries will likely be at the forefront of Gardenhire's mind next time he needs to make a pitching call-up.
"Cole De Vries was outstanding," Gardenhire said. "I think he came up and did exactly what we were hoping he'd do."
It's the kind of decision that you want your call-up to make difficult for you if you're Gardenhire, and the Twins got what was De Vries' best outing since he made his major league debut on May 24. His ERA is trending downward, currently at 3.43, and his 94 pitches in six innings marked his most efficient performance yet.
De Vries knew coming into the outing that he would likely be immediately sent down, so the news wasn't a disappointment to the 26-year-old. Instead, he hopes that the people who matter remember how he did and that they're as confident as he is in his abilities.
"I'm hoping that the guys higher up are looking at it the same way, that hey, if someone starts stumbling, I can come in and hopefully repeat a number of outings like that," De Vries said.
For now, though, sending De Vries back to the minors is the decision that makes the most sense. He'll be unavailable to pitch for four or five days, so why keep him in Minneapolis at the expense of a position player who could help the team tomorrow? Then, with the All-Star break looming, De Vries' routine would be even further interrupted if he were to stay in the major league level.
Keeping that routine as it is seems vital, especially as De Vries seems to be settling in during his second call-up of the season. His pitching has hit its stride, and getting promoted is no longer such an emotionally charged experience for the Minneapolis native.
"It was night and day," De Vries said of his comfort level. "First couple times out there… emotions were very high, as I knew they were going to be. Today I felt a lot more comfortable out there, and I think it really helped me out a lot."
That showed. Although De Vries earned his first big-league win on June 4, he gave up four runs that night, earning the victory more by virtue of the Twins' bats than his own arm. On Saturday, he could take the credit for himself.
De Vries gave up the Royals' lone run on a Billy Butler home run in the top of the second inning. Even that he was able to laugh about, joking that Butler was the one guy in the Royals' lineup against whom he knew he couldn't make a mistake. And then he did.
Outings like Saturday's are a rookie pitcher's dream. Instead of bemoaning mistakes, De Vries was about to shake them off, to say – and believe – that the most irritating moment of the night was a long at bat against Jarrod Dyson, one with too many foul balls and more pitches than he would have liked but that ultimately ended in an out.
"How can you not feel good after a good outing?" De Vries said. "Especially (because) the Royals are a good-hitting team."
De Vries' performance followed an equally impressive one from Scott Diamond, the starter in the first game of the doubleheader, who gave up two runs in eight innings. Diamond pushed his record to 7-3, and the Twins won the first game 7-2.
On a day that ended with the team wearing Minneapolis Millers throwback uniforms, the young players stole the show. Between De Vries and Diamond, the team gave up three runs in 18 innings; it hasn't given up fewer runs in nine innings since June 25.
The second game of a doubleheader is often a chance for young players and reserves to see more playing time than usual, and though that can sometimes spell a sloppy game, for the Twins on Saturday it was the opposite. Not only did De Vries pitch as well as he did, but Chris Parmelee also got his first multiple at bat game since June 14. The team has been worried about Parmelee's lack of playing time recently, and his home run Saturday night might have earned him a few more swings in upcoming games.
In a matter of nine hours, the Twins gained two games on the Royals, their division rivals. They're still 9.5 games out of first place and 3.5 behind the Royals, but when players who could make up the core of the team's future play like they do on Saturday, that's so much easier to forget.