CLEVELAND • A week in Cleveland might not be the ideal wish for a ballplayer, but Highland, Ill., product Jake Odorizzi is experiencing that this week and loving it.
Minnesota Twins righthander Odorizzi isn’t pitching in Tuesday night’s All-Star Game because he had some blister issues with the middle finger on his pitching hand. But he and his family will be enjoying the All-Star Game festivities anyway and he will be pitching here Saturday against the Indians as the Twins, one of baseball’s surprise teams, try to hold off the Indians in the American League Central Division.
“Just being named” to the All-Star team is special,” said Odorizzi on Monday at media day here. “The funny thing was that I was supposed to pitch (Sunday) and I wouldn’t have been able to throw in the All-Star Game anyway. So it isn’t like anything got taken away from me.
“But I threw a bullpen a couple of days ago and everything is going to be fine.”
Odorizzi is 10-4 with a 3.15 earned run average in his breakout year just as he hits free agency. He was 47-48 before this season but if the second half goes anything like the first for the slugging Twins, Odorizzi will be playing October baseball for the first time.
The obstacle, of course, is those 13 games remaining with the three-time division champion Indians beginning here Friday.
“It’s a really special team,” said Odorizzi of the Twins, who at 56-33, have the third-best record in the league behind the New York Yankees and Houston. “We’re on a historic pace for home runs. Our pitching staff has been really good also. Everybody hasn’t gotten over their head about how we’re playing. We expect to win on a daily basis.”
Minnesota has hit 166 homers in 89 games and is on target for 302 homers. No team his hit more than the 266 clouted by the New York Yankees last year.
“When you have an offense like that, even in the games you’re trailing, you’re never out of them," Odorizzi said.
Odorizzi also was a power-hitting infielder when he led Highland to a state baseball championship in 2008. “But I’ve kind of lost my touch,” said the 29-year-old Odorizzi, replaced by the designated hitter.
He is only two for 11 in interleague play in his career “and now, not striking out and putting a good swing on it is basically the goal. But I’ve had some good times in St. Louis when I’ve gotten to hit there.”
In an August, 2017 game, Odorizzi knocked in the only run of his big-league career with a single while pitching for Tampa Bay. He was drafted in the first round by Milwaukee but traded to Kansas City, then to Tampa Bay and then to Minnesota but never has won more than 11 games and was only 7-10 last year with the Twins.
“I wasn’t happy with the way things had gone for me last year," said Odorizzi. This year, his ERA was 2.58 until three starts ago when, perhaps bothered by the blisters, he gave up 12 runs in 12 1/3 innings over those three starts, losing two of the three.
Longtime Cardinals fan Odorizzi hasn’t had any dalliances with the Cardinals over the years other than his talking to John Mozeliak, who was in charge of the draft in 2012 before Odorizzi went to the Brewers.
“A few months from now,” he said, “I guess I can talk to just anybody I want to, or, whoever wants to talk to me, we should say. But, being in the American League my entire career, I don’t know too much about who’s with the Cardinals these days," Odorizzi said.
"I got to know (catcher/then manager) Mike Matheny over the years. He was one of the guys I enjoyed watching when I was growing up. He was one of the fun ones, a guy that everybody kind of idolized.”