Back in the big leagues, Bailey Ober and Jorge Polanco help lift Twins past Nationals
“We knew what we needed from him today,” manager Rocco Baldelli said of Ober. “He gave it to us. It didn’t feel at the beginning like we may get there, but he figured that out.”
MINNEAPOLIS -- Bailey Ober isn’t afraid to admit that the beginning of the season, the first two starts he made for the Triple-A St. Paul Saints were “tough mentally” for him.
Though Ober was lights-out this spring, he had become the odd-man out, the sixth man in a five-man rotation, when Minnesota the Twins acquired Pablo Lopez this offseason. Difficult conversations followed, and when the Twins broke camp, Ober, an established major leaguer, did so with the Saints. It was conversations with Triple-A pitching coach Cibney Bello that helped lock him back in, he said.
“It kind of shifted my mentality a little bit to get back to just being dominant on the mound and trying to get the opposing team out,” Ober said. “It doesn’t matter who it is.”
On Sunday, it was the Washington Nationals, and Ober looked plenty locked in in his major-league season debut, helping pitch the Twins to a 3-1 victory in the series finale at Target Field, staving off a series sweep and getting some assistance from second baseman Jorge Polanco and his defense in the process.
Ober’s start began with a first inning that lasted nearly 30 pitches and included a pair of walks and a run-scoring double. He issued another walk in the second inning, matching his career high. But he quickly settled in after that and for the remainder of his start, he didn’t allow a runner to reach second base.
“I feel like I was trying to be a little too much, kind of getting out of myself,” Ober said. “I was able to refocus and really attack these guys and make them swing the bat.”
Ober did allow a pair of hits in the fifth inning — he only gave up three in his start — but solid defense helped him out of the inning. With a runner on first, catcher Ryan Jeffers corralled a short bunt and rifled it to second to start a 2-6-3 double play. And after Alex Call’s two-out single for the Nationals (7-14), Ober caught him stealing and after a short run down, the Twins (12-10) got out of the inning.
“We knew what we needed from him today,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He gave it to us. It didn’t feel at the beginning like we may get there, but he figured that out.”
Along with some help from his defense — Willi Castro flashed the leather in left field, too — Ober got some run support from Polanco, who just days ago was his Saints teammate. Polanco, who rehabbed in St. Paul while Ober was there, homered in the fourth inning to tie the score at the time. Michael A. Taylor, a former World Series winner with the Nationals, also homered in the same inning, and an inning later, Polanco, in his third game back from the injured list, added another run on a single in the fifth inning. He finished the day with three hits.
“It’s just good to be back after a long time without playing in the big leagues,” Polanco said. “It’s just really exciting to be back with the guys and help them win.”
That’s a sentiment that Ober, who was also separated from his teammates for the first few weeks of the season, felt as well.
“I’ve been feeling good the last couple of outings over there (in St. Paul) and was able to carry it into today,” Ober said. “It definitely feels a little better when you’re in the big leagues.”
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