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Towering Twins: Rauch and van Mil could form big bullpen

David Brown
Big League Stew

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FORT MYERS, Fla. — When you look up and down the Minnesota Twins' 40-man roster, one item stands out. Actually, two items.

The Twinkies have a pair of NBA-sized centers on their pitching staff.

Loek van Mil of the Netherlands (right) stands 7-foot-1. He is the tallest pitcher in the minors and, if he makes the Twins roster — even though an in-season call-up is more likely — he would become the tallest pitcher in MLB history.

One more thing: If you sent him from Target Field over to Target Center, he'd be the tallest guy on the Timberwolves.

Loek (pronounced "Luke") is so tall that he easily eclipses the 6-foot-11 Jon Rauch(notes) (left), a bullpen mate who currently ranks as the tallest drink of water in the bigs.

The lockers of van Mil and Rauch are near each other inside the home clubhouse at Hammond Stadium, as if the Twins were giving out hints they should get to talking about what it's like to be so tall. I can attest that it's only natural to wonder if Rauch would someday reach out to the 25-year-old Dutch colossus, one tall guy to another.

Well, not five seconds after I began to wonder, Rauch did just that on Monday.

"Not that you’ll ever need it, but if you ever have any questions about mechanics, or whatever, let me know," Rauch said to van Mil before asking about his belt size.

How cool was that? Even better, van Mil seemed to appreciate the gesture.

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A 7-1 pitcher and a 6-11 pitcher on the same staff! Imagine the potential for blocked shots!

It's a novelty for sure, but it's not a Veeck-type promotional stunt, either. The Twins were so impressed with van Mil's progress in the minors this past season they put him on the 40-man squad for the spring.

The minor league numbers for van Mil are OK — low ERAs, solid batting average against — but he walks too many and doesn't strike out enough. This report says his fastball can reach 99 mph, though it's usually about 95. (You'd think these 7-footers would get enough torque going in their delivery to throw 200 mph.)

General manager Bill Smith said van Mil is a guy to watch for.

"We just need to get him healthy," Smith said. "He made a lot of progress last year from [Class A] Fort Myers to [Class AA] New Britain."

Van Mil was held out of bullpen drills Monday and Tuesday because of shoulder soreness, though he did participate in long toss. Heh. At their heights, both van Mil and Rauch could probably turn a session of long toss into a mean game of pepper really quick.

"Being 5-11, I can't really relate," Smith added.

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David Brown is currently touring the Gulf Coast of Florida for Big League Stew's annual Spring Swing. Follow his moves on Twitter @answerdave.

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