ST. LOUIS — Joe Ryan was in the midst of his pregame stretching in late June in Atlanta when he first felt a pull in the groin that radiated downward. Ryan said he was in shock, unsure of what to do in that situation, being that it was the first time something like that had happened.
He went out and pitched, giving up five home runs in a loss. The nagging injury, which the Twins have diagnosed as a left groin strain, has affected him since then, through a period that’s been the toughest on the mound since Ryan debuted in 2021.
Ryan finally mentioned something on Wednesday night after yet another rocky start, prompting the Twins to put him on the 15-day injured list and select the contract of veteran lefty Dallas Keuchel, who will slide into his spot in the rotation and make his first start as a Twin this weekend.
“The communication on this certainly has to be better and he knows that,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “We talked about that with Joe. It was something that he thought he could just manage himself and pitch through easily and not worry about. I think he came to the realization that he needs to let us know these things.”
Ryan didn’t mention it earlier because he believed it was something that he would be able to manage on his own.
That wasn’t the case.
The results during that period of time weren’t pretty. In seven starts since suffering the injury, Ryan gave up 31 earned runs in 32 1/3 innings pitched (8.63 earned-run average). He surrendered 17 home runs.
“The velo dips are what was most confusing to me, having not really dealt with that the first part of the year and prior to that game,” Ryan said. “It was just kind of weird dealing with that and not having that feeling of being able to finish everything properly, not being able to drive the ball at the bottom of the zone was probably the biggest frustration when everything else felt like it was right.”
The plan over the next couple weeks, Ryan said, is to keep his arm moving while he is on the injured list so he doesn’t have to do a full ramp-up with less than two months remaining in the season.
Baldelli said he doesn’t believe this is a long-term issue for Ryan. But even so, it seems as if was enough to affect him on the mound.
“Joe didn’t discuss it as this being a major … acute injury,” Baldelli said. “This is more of, I think, some general soreness in that area that probably is affecting his delivery in a minor way but may have some major effects.”
“He’s a ground ball pitcher. I’m very excited to get my ground balls with him,” the shortstop said. “ … I’m looking forward to playing behind him again.”
Keuchel, who won the AL Cy Young Award in 2015, bounced around between three different teams last year, going 2-9 and posting a 9.20 ERA. But after spending his offseason working at Driveline, the Twins signed him to a minor league deal.
In six starts with the Triple-A Saints, he had a 1.13 ERA. On Aug. 3, he exercised the opt-out in his deal, and the Twins responded by selecting his contract on Thursday.
“This is a man who knows how to pitch,” Baldelli said. “He’s had a ton of success at the major league level and he’s spent a lot of his own time and energy devoted to getting back to where he wants to be,” Baldelli said. “He’s a very motivated guy right now.”
Minor league updates
The Twins’ top prospect just got one step closer to the majors.
The organization promoted Brooks Lee, their top pick in last year’s draft, to Triple-A St. Paul on Thursday, days after the shortstop was named the Twins’ minor league player of the month. Lee, 22, hit .365 with a 1.033 OPS at Double-A Wichita in July, with 31 hits, 10 for extra bases, in 20 games.
Outfielder DaShawn Keirsey Jr. and infielder Yunior Severino also joined the Saints’ roster on Thursday.
Down in Fort Myers, Fla., Walker Jenkins, the No. 5 overall pick in this year’s draft, made his professional debut, going 2 for 4 with a double for the Florida Complex League Twins.
Pablo López was named the Twins’ Heart and Hustle Award recipient, an award given to players who “demonstrate a passion for the game of baseball and best embody the values, spirit and traditions of the game,” as voted on by former players.