MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Twins made their latest roster move this week in yet another attempt to bolster their beleaguered bullpen.
The Twins, battered and bloodied by the Houston Astros over the course of three consecutive games at Target Field, announced the signing of right-handed pitcher Ryan McGaughey to a contract for the remainder of the 2017 season. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but initial media reports said McGaughey would make himself available to the team for a salary equivalent to what he earns at The Globe — which is a small fraction of Major League Baseball’s minimum wage.
“I’m not looking to make big bucks by any means,” McGaughey told an incredulous press corps shortly after his signing was announced. “Hasn’t any hard-core baseball fan dreamed of playing in the big leagues at some point? It’s just about the love of the game — and, of course, the hope I can do some part in keeping (backup catcher) Chris Gimenez from making yet another relief appearance.”
McGaughey, who is dangerously close to celebrating his half-centennial birthday, has never thrown a pitch in a professional game. In fact, he’s never thrown a pitch in an organized game, period.
“In Little League, when I was 11, I was pitching for Starbucks — a local business that sold furniture, not lattes — and I was told by my coaches that I’d be the starting pitcher against Grand Union Motel, which had the worst record in the league,” McGaughey recalled. “In warmups, though, I recall turning into an elementary-aged version of Rick Ankiel. I was throwing the ball hard in all kinds of places, none of them close to the strike zone. I was quickly switched back to my usual spot of first base, and my dreams of being a right-handed Ron Guidry were dashed.”
Nowadays, McGaughey’s baseball activity is limited to playing catch with his children. Despite this lack of competitive experience, the Twins and their newest (and by far oldest) hurler are undeterred.
“Ryan’s a throwback who has an enthusiasm for the game that should rub off on the young guys,” said Twins Manager Paul Molitor. “Look, let’s be honest here. We have another Ryan (Pressly) who can’t get anyone out. We’ve got a bunch of guys who, to be polite about it, are scuffling a bit. Why not give this other guy a shot? What do we have to lose?”
Plenty, according to one of McGaughey’s professional colleagues.
“I compared the Twins bullpen to a dumpster fire in a blog earlier this season,” said Karl Evers-Hillstrom, a reporter at The Globe who reports directly to McGaughey. “With all due respect to my boss, that fire is now fully engulfed.”
“Hey, I know it looks ridiculous,” McGaughey acknowledged after being informed of Evers-Hillstrom’s comments. “It’s just about having the right attitude and perspective, as far as I’m concerned. When I take the mound, I’ll just be playing pitch and catch with Jason Castro instead of my kids. Sure, my fastball nowadays may have the same miles-per-hour number as the revolutions-per-minute number for an old record album, but I think I can move the ball around and keep hitters off-balance with a slow-slower-slowest type of approach.”
Molitor said he’s undecided on how he’ll use his team’s latest moundsman.
“We can definitely see what he can offer us in a mop-up role,” Molitor explained, “or we could just save him to use in the next Houston Astros series. The way they hit the ball this week, it didn’t seem to matter who we had out there, other than (Ervin) Santana. We could use McGaughey for all 27 innings of the Astros games, let the poor schlub take his lumps and give all the other guys a set for teams we know we can compete with.”
McGaughey is OK with whatever decisions are made regarding his appearances in games.
“I’m ready to play ball,” he said. “Just don’t put me in a game against a National League team where I have to bat. You think I was a bad pitcher in Little League? You never saw me hit. The designated hitter rule was created for buffoons like me.”