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Alcala could be key ingredient to Twins bullpen success

Jorge Alcala didn't plan on striking a pose when Kansas City Royals shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. unsuccessfully tried to check his swing for the last out in the seventh inning Thursday. Alcala pointed toward catcher Christian Vázquez and held his right hand in the air until the home-plate umpire signaled strikeout.

"It was just adrenaline," Alcala said after the Twins 7-6 victory through team interpreter Mauricio Ortiz. "I did a good job on the mound, so it was just the emotions afterward."

Alcala has pitched well since he returned to the Twins bullpen last week, and he was electric Thursday. He reached 100 mph with his fastball and the movement on his slider had coaches and players buzzing with excitement in the dugout.

"When he's able to just go out there and just let it eat for an inning, he's got the stuff and the ability to be a back-end guy, for sure," Ryan Jeffers said. "We started seeing that in '21, before he kind of started getting hurt there. He's starting to throw big-time innings for us. When he's 100 mph with those sliders at 92, that's going to be a really hard combo for anybody. It's an exciting development to see what he's doing."

Since Alcala was recalled from the minor leagues, he's struck out seven of the 15 batters he's faced while allowing one hit and one walk.

The biggest difference, Alcala says, is his confidence.

"Right now, I feel like I'm throwing better than when I started back in 2019," he said.

Anderson returns home

Royals reliever Nick Anderson has been in the big leagues for five seasons, pitching in three World Series games in 2020 for Tampa Bay, and Monday brought a new career highlight.

Anderson, a 33-year-old from Brainerd, pitched at Target Field for the first time in his career. Anderson started his professional career with the Twins, signing out of an independent league in 2015, but he was traded to the Miami Marlins in 2018 for a prospect who didn't reach the majors.

"Being from Minnesota and me playing in the minor leagues with Minnesota too, I don't want to say it's surreal because it's not surreal — but kind of full circle a little bit how things work," Anderson said. "That's kind of the way baseball is. You're with a team and you're a hometown guy, might be with them for a while, and then traded, traded, traded all over the place, and then five years into playing the big leagues, I finally get back."

Anderson, who has a home in the Twin Cities, had 30 family members and friends at Monday's series opener when he pitched in the eighth inning.

"I told some people this is my first time here. They're like, 'What, really?' I spent a couple of years on the IL with Tampa and that's just how it worked," Anderson said. "I'm a big 'everything happens for a reason' kind of person. First year or two in the big leagues playing here, I think it would've been more overwhelming."

Etc.

* Royce Lewis was hitless in three at-bats, with two strikeouts, during the St. Paul Saints' 6-3 road loss to the Rochester Red Wings on Thursday. Lewis was lifted after playing seven innings at third base, the second time he's played the field on his rehab assignment. The Saints totaled five hits, which includes home runs from Matt Wallner and Yunior Severino.