Can Randy Dobnak solve the Minnesota Twins rotation issues?
By Chris Schad
The Minnesota Twins right-hander has had a strange ride in 2019, but could he be the answer to their void in the starting rotation?
The Minnesota Twins trimmed their magic number to clinch the American League Central division to five on Friday night with a 4-3 win over the Kansas City Royals. While the Twins appear to be on the verge of capturing their first division title since 2010, there are still plenty of questions that need to be answered including what they’ll do with the back half of their starting rotation.
While an appearance in the postseason looks to be a formality at this point, the Twins presence in the starting rotation is anything but solidified. Outside of Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi, manager Rocco Baldelli has to be secretly begging for someone to step up so he doesn’t have to produce an array of bullpen games to help the Twins win their first postseason series since 2002.
On Friday night, the Twins may have seen their solution flash before their eyes in Randy Dobnak. The right-hander didn’t know he was getting the start until after the game on Thursday, but took the ball and ran with it, throwing 5 1/3 innings allowing one run on three hits and a pair of walks while striking out five batters.
The performance helped Dobnak earn his first major league win in Minnesota’s victory, but may have also provided what the Twins have been looking for in the back half of their rotation.
Kyle Gibson and Martin Perez both started the year off strong, but have tailed off dramatically over the past couple of months with Gibson posting a 5.63 ERA since June 8 and Perez tallying a 6.07 ERA in his last 19 starts. As Gibson has also battled ulcerative colitis, neither appear to be a reliable starting option for the Twins as they potentially square off with the high powered offenses of the New York Yankees or Houston Astros in the American League Divisional series.
While slotting Dobnak into the rotation wouldn’t have the same effect as acquiring Noah Syndergaard or Marcus Stroman at the trade deadline, he would at least provide a stabilizing presence. The moment has not looked too big for the 24-year old, as he’s posted a 1-1 record with a 2.01 ERA over eight appearances this season.
Dobnak has also done a great job limiting his own damage on the mound for the Twins. Over 22 1/3 innings, the right-hander has issued just five walks and is holding opposing batters to a .348 slugging percentage.
With Perez and Gibson’s weakness being allowing big hits and walking batters, Dobnak could at least someone who could fill the same role that Brandon Woodruff did with the Milwaukee Brewers did last October. While the Twins wouldn’t be counting on Dobnak as a Game 1 starter like Woodruff was, Milwaukee used a piece of their bullpen beautifully in its run to the National League Championship Series, throwing 12 1/3 innings with a 2.19 ERA.
If Dobnak can provide similar performance, it would accomplish what should be the goal for the Twins’ starters in October by getting to their much-improved bullpen. Should that happen, the Twins may have a better chance on the mound than many expect once the postseason begins.