Conversations would pop up regularly over the past season between manager Rocco Baldelli, pitching coach Wes Johnson and the Twins’ other pitching minds, but each time it happened, it was eventually introduced.
Original question: What if we take Griffin Jacques to the bullpen?
He came close several times, said Baldelli, but every time he did, he needed to start the innings and cover to turn it around. Although Jacques said it wasn’t a topic of discussion with him last year, it was something he thought about as well. Opponents hit him .175 with .597 Ops for the first time in his rookie season last year. Those numbers went through the batsmen for the second and third time on the balloon.
It made sense to him, and so he did his best to prepare the people around him for the possibility.
“I talked about it a lot this season to my wife, to my family, saying, ‘Hey guys, I’m not sure that’s going to happen, but please don’t be surprised if I come back and tell you that I I’m going to go to the bullpen. It’s not a bad thing,” Jacques said.
It certainly hasn’t happened.
After posting a 6.37 earned-run average during his rookie season, Jax has been the bright spot of the opening season from a strong Twins bullpen this spring, and his quick success in his new role has propelled the 27-year-old. Higher-profits are starting to see more opportunities.
“I knew my repertoire and what was working for me would play well off the bullpen, and I knew the Twins would make some moves to start pitching this year, and I was just someone in the mix. Was hoping to stay like the opportunity,” Jacques said. “So when they gave me that, I didn’t mind. I was ready to go, excited for it, the new opportunity, all that sort of thing.” “
In eight games of varying lengths this season – he has thrown anywhere between one and three innings – Jacques has a 1.35 ERA and has picked up a pair of victories. He dismissed 17 batsmen, scored just three runs and did not allow a run since April 18.
It has done so by relying even more heavily on a slider that has seen a significant bump in its velocity. Last year, Jax’s slider averaged 83.3 mph. As a reliever, it tops out at 86.4 mph.
“He’s a guy who just had the type of slider that could last, had the potential and development potential from the bullpen to be a real above-average weapon,” Baldelli said. “When you’re throwing 80 pitches, you don’t have the best version of that pitch. To be able to see what it looks like in an innings or two is great. ,
And the Twins are definitely seeing a lot of it. Last year, Jax’s sliders accounted for 31.1 percent of the pitches he threw.
this year? He’s throwing it 52.7 percent of the time.
The grip on the pitch is the same, he said, but as he moves towards the bullpen, everything is in place. And she’s put on some weight and got stronger, which has helped her too.
“The spin is a little bit faster which is helping it look like a hitter like it’s like a fastball,” Jacques said. “So the faster it spins, the less time it has for it to get a big shape and the hitter can sometimes see that hump on an off-speed pitch or just change the direction they know That’s going to be off-speed, so I think it’s tunneling better, like a fastball, that’s why we’re getting results and swinging and misses this year as we are.”
All those swings and misses have helped him weaponize out of the Twins bullpen. And although he began a lifetime, Jacques said that he does not remember it at all.
It is very easy to see why.
“I thought it was almost going to be a bit more of a transition, but I think I’ve settled in pretty well right off the bat,” Jacques said. “A lot of fun. I have a lot of confidence in there.”