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Recently acquired pitcher Tyler Mahle leaves third Twins start with ‘shoulder fatigue’

Right-hander who came to team at trade deadline left after getting the first out in the third inning.

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Minnesota Twins
Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Tyler Mahle comes off the field with the team trainer during the third inning Wednesday, Aug. 17, against the Kansas City Royals at Target Field in Minneapolis.
Jeffrey Becker / USA Today Sports
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Twins knew almost immediately that something was off with Tyler Mahle on Wednesday. His velocity was noticeably off in the first inning, and during his 2⅓ innings, the big right-hander was conspicuously trying to loosen his right shoulder.

But after Mahle induced two foul balls from Royals shortstop Maikel Garcia, manager Rocco Baldelli had seen enough.

“He was probably on the border of coming out of the game sooner than that,” Baldelli said. “We didn’t leave him in the game because of this, but truthfully, it would have been a very challenging game for us to finish if he had to come out in, say, the first inning.”

Fortunately, the Twins got a combined 6⅔ scoreless innings of relief from five pitchers, starting with two innings from Emilio Pagan, who earned the win in the Twins’ 4-0, sweep-clinching victory at Target Field.

Unfortunately, the Twins left the park on Wednesday evening not knowing what exactly Mahle is facing. The team has initially called it “right shoulder fatigue.” After the game, he was scheduled for a magnetic resonance imaging exam.

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Acquired from Cincinnati for prospects Christian Encarnacion-Strand, Spencer Steer and Steve Hajjar, Mahle was 1-0 with a 3.00 earned-run average in two starts for the Twins and isn’t scheduled to become a free agent until 2024.

Mahle had an MRI in early July when he was with the Reds and was limited to three starts in July because of what he called “irritation and inflammation” in the shoulder. It’s something he’s been working through since joining the Twins.

“There’s some maintenance that’s involved in his program related to his arm,” Baldelli said, “but nothing, I think, drastic. I think we’re thinking it’s more along the lines of what guys deal with over the course of the season. Guys do deal with things like this, maybe not quite to this extent, but guys do pitch through a lot of different soreness, and tight(ness) here and there.

“He didn’t really want to come out of the game, to be honest, even after everything that was going on,” the manager added. “If that’s a good sign, it’s a good sign, but we’ll wait and see until we know more.”

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Mahle’s go-to, four-seam fastball was conspicuously off on Wednesday, down as low as 86.4 mph, per mlb.com pitching tracking, after averaging 93.4 mph this season and topping out at 97-plus.

“I think he always starts a little slow when it comes to velocity,” said Wednesday’s catcher Gary Sanchez. “I didn’t think anything of it right away. It’s my first time catching him at this level, obviously. Just didn’t think anything of it. But I did notice after that inning that his velocity was a little down.”

Miranda’s hot start

Infielder Jose Miranda went 2 for 4 with a two-run homer on Wednesday to raise his batting average to .286 with 12 home runs and 51 RBIs, tying him with Byron Buxton for second on the team in RBIs behind Jorge Polanco, in 273 major-league at-bats.

For comparison purposes, 2006 AL MVP Justin Morneau hit .252 with 16 homers and 49 RBIs through his first 270 at-bats with the Twins (2003-04). Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Oliva hit .339 with 11 homers and 39 RBIs in his first 271 at-bats with the Twins (1962-64).

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twinsmugs-JoseMiranda.jpg
Jose Miranda

Primarily a third baseman in the minor leagues, Miranda has mostly played first with the Twins, for two reasons: Gio Urshela has been so good defensively at third, and injuries to Miguel Sano (knee) and Alex Kirilloff (wrist), both of whom have been lost for the season.

That doesn’t mean he’s locked in at first.

“I don’t think that’s necessarily the case,” Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said this week. “Could he play it? Sure. He started a little bit more at short and second (in the minors) but he’s gotten stronger. He’s one of those guys whose legs have gotten a little bit thicker, so third and first. Jose can play third, for sure.”

Miranda has played at first for at least part of 43 games this season, and at least 28 games at third.

Briefly

Luis Arraez, who started Wednesday as the major leagues’ batting leader, went 1 for 4 and is batting .335. … The Twins beat Kansas City 9-0 on Tuesday, which with Wednesday’s victory gave them consecutive shutouts for the first time since Sept. 7-8, 2021, at Cleveland.

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