February 21, 2023

Here’s a change of pace: An off-the-field injury for the Twins

It has been well-documented that the Twins had an inordinate amount of player injuries last year, all of which contributed to an underwhelming season and a third-place finish. But at least those injuries involved the game of baseball, either running, throwing or fielding the ball from what I recall.

Yet here we are on the verge of a new season and the first injury isn’t baseball-related, but is tied to an incident away from the game that happened Feb. 11 in Fort Myers, Florida, the Twins’ spring training home. Pitching prospect Jordan Balazovic broke his jaw in a dustup that hasn’t been fully explained, although he presumably was punched in the face or was hit by something. I guess there’s a chance he could have fallen into something as well. The result, of course, is a jaw wired shut and time away from the game. If you’re keeping track of player injuries (and why wouldn’t you be after last season?) then check the appropriate box.

It’s not a huge loss for the Twins because Balazovic, who showed better form in the lower stages of minor league ball, has struggled as he has moved up the ranks. He pitched to a 3.62 ERA over 20 starts in Double-A ball, according to MLB.com, but then his ERA ballooned to 7.39 in 22 starts at Triple-A St. Paul.

One addendum: I should be very careful saying “it’s not a huge loss for the Twins” because any emerging pattern of injuries would very much be a HUGE problem.

Extra innings …

-I was perusing Twins Territory social media when I came across a tweet about the final home game at Metropolitan Stadium in October 1981. The Twins dropped that game 5-2 to the Kansas City Royals. But what about the final game of the regular season? That was a wild one, according to Baseball-Reference.com.

The Twins ended the season at Comiskey Park against the White Sox. Both teams combined to score 25 runs on 31 hits en route to a 13-12 walk-off White Sox win. The Chisox scored first before only 8,000 fans, the Twins responded with a furious rally, then the bullpen coughed up eight runs late to give the Pale Hose the one-run victory. The Twins were completely undone by their pitching, which served up 10 base on balls, including six issued by starter Albert Williams over four-plus innings. The bright spots: The Twins banged out 17 hits, including eight extra-base hits, and 21-year-old Kent Hrbek went 4-for-4 with two doubles. The Twins also turned three double plays.

Even better was the game story by the Minneapolis Tribune and reporter Jay Weiner who did a nice job of summing up the game and season. Under a headline that reads, “Twins last game symbol of entire season — dismal,” Weiner writes:

“Thirty-eight players, two managers, 53 games canceled by the two-month long players’ strike and injuries only a computer could keep track of highlighted a tumultuous Twins season that ended characteristically yesterday before 7,965 masochists at Comiskey Park. The Twins, mashers of 17 hits, leading 12-9 when the ninth inning started, lost to the White Sox 13-12.”

The Twins were 41-68 in ’81. Their best month was a 14-14 record in September, which included a seven-game winning streak, two of which were walk-off wins, and one of those was a 1-0 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays, the one team the Twins could beat that season. The 1-0 win came against pitcher Dave Stieb, one of my all-time favorites. The Twins finally got to him in the bottom of the ninth with a single, walk and a Rob Wilfong double.

-Over 16 seasons, Stieb’s record was 176-137 with a 3.44 ERA. He also tossed 103 complete games and 30 shutouts.

Sources: MLB.com, Baseball-Reference.com, Newspapers.com.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.


Hi, I’m Rolf Boone, Twins fan.

I became a fan of the Minnesota Twins after a friendly wager in the early 1980s. I survived Ron Davis, the meltdown in Cleveland, Phil Bradley at the Kingdome and then marveled at a rising generation of stars and two World Series wins in 1987 and 1991. Brad Radke made the 1990s bearable, while Kirby Puckett’s eye injury, exit from the game and eventual death made it almost too much to bear. The new century ushered in more talent — Joe Mauer, Johan Santana, Joe Nathan, Torii Hunter, Justin Morneau — and consecutive seasons of playoff baseball, followed by consecutive seasons of losing baseball. A winning season returned in 2015. So here we are. Go Twins.