Anthony Swarzak threw more than a third of a no-hitter today. Photo by Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIRE

Twins toss another near no-hitter

If five pitchers combine to throw a no-hitter in the forest, but nobody sees or hears it, did it really happen? Unfortunately, we still do not know the answer to that question.

For the second time this spring, the Twins came within a few outs of achieving that rarest of meaningless feats: a spring training no-hitter. Previously it was the Pirates who couldn’t keep up with Twins’ awesome pitching; today it was the Orioles. The Twins blanked Baltimore 5-0 in a game that was neither televised nor radiovised (full disclosure: I made that word up). For all of us who were following along on the Gameday feature of the MLB At Bat app, though, it was a true nail-biter.

Incidentally, the game was held at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Florida. It was not technically in the forest, as the first sentence of this article may have led you to believe. I think I’ve just heard too many of those Twins radio broadcast PSAs, and the forest is on my mind.

Playing in a forest might have been less strange than what actually happened, though. Most of the five pitchers who combined for the one-hitter – Anthony Swarzak, Jeff Gray, Jared Burton, Glen Perkins, and Matt Capps – were not exactly known for their ability to mow down opposing hitters. But mow they did. Aside from three Swarzak walks, the Twins did not allow a base runner until the eighth inning.

Ironically, it was Perkins, the Twins’ most unhittable pitcher last year, who allowed the only hit. With one out in the eighth, Robert “Buzzkill” Andino swatted a double to right field to ruin everyone’s good time. Recall that in the Pirates game, the Twins spent the afternoon quietly retiring Bucs batters until evil mastermind Brandon Boggs singled. Boggs was justly thrown out by Brian Dinkelman while trying to stretch the single into a double. Today, history repeated itself. Andino got greedy and tried for a triple, and he was thrown out at third for his crimes.

This game had some larger significance as well. It was Swarzak’s first start of the spring. With Scott Baker a longshot to be ready for the start of the season, Swarzak is auditioning for a temporary rotation slot. Throwing three and two thirds no-hit innings is probably the best audition you can expect, so Swarzak has definitely raised the bar for Liam Hendriks or anyone else who is still in the running for the job. On the downside, as mentioned above, Swarzak did walk three batters, which is a troubling sign. Swarzak is not the type of pitcher who can be successful if he walks batters on a regular basis.

Also of note: Gray has participated in both of the one-hit efforts this spring. He has flown under the radar, not receiving a lot of coverage in the media, but he now owns a 2.16 ERA in 8.1 innings, albeit with only two strikeouts. Gray stretched out a little this afternoon, throwing 2.1 innings, so it’s possible the Twins are considering him for a long-relief role. The fact that Minnesota has pitched a one-hit shutout in one third of Gray’s appearances can’t hurt: maybe he’s a good luck charm.

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Tags: Anthony Swarzak Glen Perkins Jared Burton Jeff Gray Matt Capps Minnesota Twins