Pitcher Devin Smeltzer, who is now healthy, hopes he left Twins with an “easy choice” – Twin Cities

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — Twins pitcher Devin Smeltzer came into camp with a very clear goal. Eleven scoreless innings later, he thinks he’s nailed it.

“My goal for spring was to make it where the decision was going to be difficult,” Smeltzer said. “I hopefully gave them an easy choice to put me back on the list.”

Smeltzer is now awaiting a decision on where he will start the season. But after throwing four scoreless innings in the Twins’ 8-2 exhibition win over the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park on Saturday, he’s confident he did everything possible to best position himself for success.

His strong performance this spring comes after not playing for almost the entire 2021 season. At the end of the long journey, he is now completely sane after finally figuring out what was wrong and how to deal with it.

At the start of last season he knew something was wrong. He just had no idea what. At last spring practice, he “couldn’t hit the broad side of the barn,” as he put it, walking five times and giving up seven runs during the four innings he pitched in Grapefruit League action.

During the one start he made last season in the majors — a 4 2/3-inning game against the Pirates in late April — he eventually retired and threw a fastball as hard as he could.

The radar reading was 84 miles per hour.

“[I]then had imaging and everything was pretty clean, which is frustrating,” Smeltzer said. “You feel like you’re going crazy because something isn’t right.”

The twins put him on the injured list with what they called a left elbow infection. In June, during a pre-game bullpen session, pain forced him to his knees. An ambulance was called.

Smeltzer was eventually diagnosed with a herniated disc in his neck. His doctor made him turn everything off. He was ordered to do absolutely nothing for four weeks and was told this was more than baseball and that if he didn’t listen he could “mess up his life.”

“It was scary, but after I calmed down emotionally a few days later, it was a sigh of relief because I knew I wasn’t crazy,” Smeltzer said. “There was something wrong. It caused all the nerve problems. I had no feeling in my last three fingers, no command.”

In addition, some long-term radiation and chemo side effects surfaced — Smeltzer is a childhood cancer survivor — and hormone issues surfaced.

When he got the all clear to start ramping up he did so, and by mid to late October when he quit for the off-season his speed had picked up again and his stuff was where he wanted it.

The journey was long, but the pitcher, who grew up outside of Philadelphia, kept repeating a mantra now commonly associated with the 76ers: Trust the process.

“I think we’re seeing the best version of him right now,” said Twins manager Rocco Baldelli. “He made the conversation really challenging for us because it’s another really good arm that we have to consider now. But his camp was also very successful here.”

KIRILLOFF LEAVES GAME

Alex Kirilloff left Saturday’s game with a coach after going from first to third with a double in the sixth inning. Baldelli said Kirilloff showed pain in his left knee and said he didn’t think it was a serious problem.

“He was walking around and structurally nothing was found on examination,” Baldelli said. “But we have to see what the symptoms are, I think tomorrow, and that will tell us what we need to know for the next step.”

MEAGER

Nick Gordon went 3 for 3 in Saturday’s game with five runs collected. Gordon hit his first home run of the spring, a three-run blast, and tripled. … infielders Gio Urschel also had multi hit game.

https://www.twincities.com/2022/04/02/now-healthy-pitcher-devin-smeltzer-hopes-he-left-twins-with-easy-choice/ Pitcher Devin Smeltzer, who is now healthy, hopes he left Twins with an “easy choice” – Twin Cities

Jessica MacLeish

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