Jepsen in the 8th, Perkins in the 9th. That’s how it was supposed to go in the Twins bullpen this season. Of course, almost nothing has gone as planned for the local squad in 2016. The All Star break is here and dreams of a winning season died months ago. Glen Perkins meanwhile, is out for the year after shoulder surgery and Kevin Jepsen was designated for assignment earlier this month.
Crisis yields opportunity however, and Brandon Kintzler is capitalizing on the chaos. The nearly 32-year-old (August 1) reliever was inked to minor league deal last December, began the season in Rochester, was recalled in May and now, finds himself as the team’s closer.
After a torn left patella tendon derailed his 2014 and 2015 campaigns in Milwaukee, Kintzler appears to be resurrecting his career in Minnesota. Whether or not he remains the Twins’ long term closer is uncertain, but Kintzler’s high 90s fastball with bite makes him an intriguing option in 2017 and beyond.
DZ: You’ve been here almost two months now, what’s your take on the team and the city and everything?
KINTZLER: The city is very similar to Milwaukee.
DZ: We don’t want to hear that in Minnesota.
KINTZLER: I know you guys hate Wisconsin (laughs). Obviously, the team is younger than I have been used to, but we have fun. Obviously, it’s not going the way we want, but guys come in everyday and work hard and that’s all you can ask for.
DZ: When you first got called up, did you ever think you’d be closing games this quickly?
KINTZLER: No, that’s not really what you plan on. First, you just want to reestablish yourself when you are getting recalled. Especially after the injuries I’ve had. As far as closing games, it not something I set out to do, but you work hard, things happen…it’s just the position we’re in.
DZ: Going back to when you were a free agent last off season, what made you choose the Twins?
KINTZLER: One, Eddie Guardado was here. I’ve known him for 20+ years of my life. We are very similar as far as personalities. As a bullpen coach; if I could pitch in his bullpen, it would help me a lot. I knew there was opportunity here…That’s all you can ask for after an injury. You don’t want to be Triple A depth, you want to be a big leaguer and they were willing to give me an opportunity.
DZ: How did you know Eddie Guardado?
KINTZLER: His agent was my coach when I was a kid, so I’ve known him forever.
DZ: Was he a mentor?
KINTZLER: Yeah. Yeah.
DZ: You are not the biggest guy (listed generously at 6-0), but you can dial it up pretty high on the radar gun, what’s the secret to your velocity?
KINTZLER: I’d say it depends on healthy legs. I’ve always been able to throw harder, even when I was younger, but when I needed to the last couple of years – I didn’t have my left leg to land on and drive through. It’s being healthy and adrenaline helps, but really it’s just having healthy legs.
DZ: The second half is coming up, do you look at that as a chance to show this team that you can be a part of things going forward – in the future?
KINTZLER: Yeah, for sure. And you want to prove it to yourself. You don’t just want to be a first half fluke, you want to show you can go a full season. I’ve done it a few times, but I’ve always wanted to know what I could do being healthy. I am definitely excited for the challenge.
DZ: What are your plans for the All Star break?
KINTZLER: I don’t know. We are trying to figure out what to do around here. Especially with our baby, we don’t want to travel much. I am sure you guys have a bunch of lakes, we’ll find someplace to go.
DZ: There are a few lakes around here. A couple of them, I’ve heard.
KINTZLER: (laughs) We’ll figure something out.
See more of David Zingler’s player interviews:
July 7: Brian Dozier
June 24: Robbie Grossman
June 20: Buddy Boshers
June 13: Max Kepler
May 23: Seimone Augustus
May 6: Casey Fien
April 28: Tyler Duffey
April 20: Ryan Pressly
April 14: John Ryan Murphy