Veteran reliever Matt Belisle rejoins Twins with minimal baggage
DETROIT — Matt Belisle's career took a hiatus when the Cleveland Indians released the veteran reliever May 6. So did his life.
Belisle cleared waivers and eventually moved in to an Extended Stay America hotel in Columbus, Ohio, where he made nine appearances for Cleveland's Triple-A affiliate before the Twins re-signed the 38-year-old Tuesday, June 12, for an encore.
To make room on the roster, Minnesota designated utility infielder Gregorio Petit for release or assignment.
Belisle packed minimal belongings in his pickup Monday night and drove 3½ hours to the Twins' suburban Detroit hotel, rejoining the team for which he became an accidental closer during an unlikely 2017 postseason chase.
"Got a good sleep and I'm ready to go," he said before the three-game series opener against the Tigers at Comerica Park. "We'll figure out how to get my truck."
The Twins have to figure out how to use Belisle to augment an overworked bullpen. Fernando Rodney is the closer. Zack Duke and Addison Reed already have their late-inning roles.
Belisle appeared in eight games for the Indians and was tagged for six earned runs in just 10⅔ innings (5.06 ERA) before being outrighted. In the same workload for Columbus, the right-hander allowed five earned runs (4.22), struck out 11 and walked one.
Last year with the Twins he was the set-up man for closer Brandon Kintzler until Belisle inherited the job when Kintzler was traded to Washington in a deadline deal. He saved 11 games down the stretch as Minnesota clinched a wild-card berth.
"Matty was a big plus to what we were able to do last year," said manager Paul Molitor. "Watching him pitch down there (Columbus), the people who have seen him say he's the same guy. Didn't get off to a great start with Cleveland. We're looking for him to supplement our bullpen first and foremost, but we all know that a presence he can bring can be influential, as well."
Belisle is as good-natured as they come, a gym rat on the back-nine of a career that started as Atlanta's 1998 second-round draft pick. A 14-year veteran back with his seventh organization, Belisle is a twice-failed starter and survivor who is the all-time leader in appearances for the Colorado Rockies (392) and in the top-10 in appearances since 2010 among all relievers.
"To be back with the team that was such an emotional team last year and how we ended up and the great run, it's so fun," he said. "It's so fun to see all the familiar faces, and with so much season that's progressed it's almost surreal.
"But it's a great feeling. I'm excited as can be. Obviously, to come from a Triple-A team to come here to be wanted and valued means the world to me."
Mauer in Rochester
Joe Mauer (concussion symptoms) led off as designated hitter for Triple-A Rochester Tuesday night during the first game of a double-header against Scranton/Wilkes Barre.
He was scheduled to play first base for the Red Wings Wednesday night, and if all goes well he could rejoin the Twins as soon as Thursday's three-game series finale against the Tigers.
Molitor said the rehabilitation assignment is more about Mauer getting through a game and his surroundings without suffering any recurring symptoms than rebooting his swing. He has been sidelined since May 18.
"I'm fairly confident about his ability to hit, even being out as long as he's been," Molitor said. "If things go well, we'll have the option of getting him back in here sooner than later."
Center fielder Byron Buxton, on the disabled list with a broken left toe, traveled with the Twins to the Detroit and will continue to work with hitting coach James Rowson in Cleveland this weekend.
However, Molitor said Buxton is destined for another rehab assignment before rejoining the lineup. He was on a rehab assignment for migraines when he fouled a pitch off the big toe on his left foot in April.
"We thought he was at a stage where the facilities in Minnesota weren't that much of a benefit," Molitor said. "We kind of wanted to monitor his hitting and try to get him in a good place where he's ready to play.
"I did see him running the other day, and it seemed like he was doing really well. I think the biggest concern is how he's going to feel to swing as normally as he can and trust that he can drive into that front foot when he makes a move on the ball."