Twins' Alston says Dakota Chalmers could be an 'organization changer'
DETROIT — Shortly after the Twins acquired 21-year-old right-hander Dakota Chalmers from the Oakland A's for closer Fernando Rodney, Twins pitching coach Garvin Alston received a phone call.
It was from Chalmers, with whom he'd worked in the summer of 2015 after the A's drafted him in the third round out of an Atlanta-area high school.
"He reached out to me and he gave me a call and we talked for a little bit," said Alston, formerly a roving pitching instructor for the A's. "I told him, 'Welcome to the organization and let's get to work.' "
Chalmers, who received a $1.2 million signing bonus, will be restricted mainly to the monotony of rehab after undergoing Tommy John surgery in April. Once he's back throwing again, the Twins will have some tweaks to do with his delivery, which has lapsed a bit as he reached the Class A Midwest League.
"I had my hands on him early," Alston said. "As soon as he got drafted, I was there coordinating at that time. He's somebody I know well as far as pitches and how they move and how they came out. He was amazing his first three starts when he was down there, the way he threw the baseball."
Chalmers has struck out 10.2 batters per nine innings across 121 1/3 professional frames, but his walk rate is an alarming 6.8 per nine. Alston spent the 2016 season as bullpen coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks and only returned briefly to the A's as big-league bullpen coach for the final two months of 2017.
"He had a few major flaws in his delivery (upon signing)," Alston said. "We addressed those. I don't know exactly what more they did with him."
A bit surprisingly, Alston was not asked for his opinion of Chalmers before the Rodney deal was completed.
"That's not my area at all," Alston said. "If they called and asked me, I would definitely give them anything that they need. He's a great kid who's got some things to work on. As a kid, I like him personally."
Chalmers, whose fastball has been clocked up to 97 mph, doesn't need to be added to the 40-man roster until after next season. That should buy the Twins some time to figure out what they have.
Should things click, however, Alston raves about the possibilities.
"Oh, gosh, Dakota Chalmers — I think his ability is through the roof," Alston. "He has a plus fastball, a plus breaking ball. The mix is there, the body is there, the competitiveness is there. There are no guarantees in anything we do, but we're hoping this one hits. He could be an organization changer without a doubt with the stuff that he has."
Riddle of Hildy
Twins staffers and reliever Trevor Hildenberger have gone back through video of his outings to see if he's been tipping his offspeed pitches, but so far nothing definitive has been discovered.
"You always want to examine if anything has changed in your delivery or what you might be doing," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "I don't suspect that's the case with him, but it doesn't hurt to try and comb and find something if possible. Unless we're missing something, I don't really think that's what's been going on."
Hildenberger survived a shaky ninth on Saturday for his second career save, both at Comerica Park. He also nailed down the save here last Aug. 13.
Over his past four outings, the sidewinder has allowed nine earned runs and four home runs in 3 2/3 innings. That computes to a 22.07 earned-run average, pushing his season mark to 4.74.
Hildenberger has been urged to use his 88-90 mph sinker more, and he has added an over-the-top changeup of late.
"He needs to learn to make that (sinker) more of a priority for the hitters to be concerned about," Molitor said, "because a lot of the damage has been off speed."
Newly minted Hall of Famer Jack Morris had his number No. 47 retired by the Tigers in a ceremony before Sunday's game. To commemorate the achievement, Morris' number was mowed into the outfield grass at Comerica Park.
The right-hander from Highland Park High School joined Ty Cobb, Hank Greenberg, Charlie Gehringer, Al Kaline, Hal Newhouser, Willie Horton and Sparky Anderson in receiving that franchise honor. Morris' number was placed on a row of his own, just below those of Greenberg and Gehringer.
Molitor, a fellow Hall of Famer and St. Paul product who had his No. 4 retired by the Milwaukee Brewers, knows the feeling.
"There's a difference between going into Cooperstown and having an organization put your number to rest forever — in a good way," Molitor said. "I think it's builds a connectedness, not only to the organization but the fan base that had a chance to be a part of that. For Jack, that's a pretty impressive wall they've got out there. His name's going to look good next to some of those."