FORT MYERS, Fla. — Randy Dobnak had gone a lifetime without seeing another Randy dig into the batter’s box against him.
“I don’t think Randy is much of a common name,” he said. “… It’s probably the first time I’ve faced another Randy. That I know of, anyway.”
And while he didn’t win the Battle of the Randys on Saturday — last year’s postseason hero Randy Arozarena hit a single off him in the first inning — Dobnak was otherwise perfect in an impressive performance on Saturday in the Twins’ 1-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park. Dobnak struck out six of the 10 batters he faced in his three scoreless innings, getting two batters looking and four swinging.
“I’m actually a strikeout guy,” he joked. “New Year, new me.”
Well, maybe not a totally new Dobnak, but the righty is working on trying to get more break on his slider, tweaking his delivery to keep his hand in a more supinated position.
“It plays really well off my sinker, so we’re just trying to kind of get more break in between it,” Dobnak said of the slider. “Trying to create the tunnel and have it break apart more. But I threw it pretty well today, so I’m pretty satisfied with where I am with that.”
It’s something he said he began testing out last Thursday, the day before his first outing of the spring. He then took it into a game and it clicked well for him. In that appearance, Dobnak threw 2 1/3 scoreless frames against Atlanta.
While Dobnak’s role is somewhat uncertain — the Twins have five starters in Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios, Matt Shoemaker, Michael Pineda and J.A. Happ — manager Rocco Baldelli said he could envision Dobnak helping out in different ways, specifically mentioning the potential of two-to-three inning stints out of the bullpen or using Dobnak “on days where we may involved two starters.”
“Dobber has obviously been a guy that’s established himself as a quality member of our pitching staff,” Baldelli said. “One way or another, wherever he slots in, however he gets his innings, I’m pretty sure we’re going to find a way to get him involved and let him pitch us to some wins. Exactly how that’s going to go from Opening Day on, I couldn’t tell you at this moment.”
The Twins will get their first look at Happ in game action on Monday. Happ reported late to camp after testing positive for COVID-19. Since reporting on March 2, Happ has thrown multiple live BPs, Baldelli said. The Twins signed Happ this offseason to a one-year, $8 million deal.
“We’ll continue to monitor J.A., watch him throw, see where he’s at around Opening Day and the week before Opening Day, and see if there’s any adjustments we have to make,” Baldelli said. “I don’t anticipate a ton of adjustments for J.A.”
Max Kepler played on Saturday for the first time since fouling a ball off his leg on Thursday. Kepler went 0 for 3 while serving as the team’s designated hitter. … Kenta Maeda is scheduled to start for the Twins on Sunday against Boston. Hansel Robles and Cody Stashak are also scheduled to throw.