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Opponents are hitting Jhoan Duran, Twins think it’s a matter of execution

Called to the mound to lock down a victory over division rival Kansas City at Target Field on Tuesday, Jhoan Duran was greeted by a double off the scoreboard in right-center by Royals catcher Salvador Perez.

The pitch he hit was a 100.3 mph fastball up and out of the zone.

“Really,” Duran said afterward, “I don’t know how he touched the pitch.”

But he did, and it’s not something Duran, who routinely reaches as high as 103 mph on the radar gun, is accustomed to. Perez is one baseball’s hottest hitters right now — and one of the best at clobbering pitches out of the zone — but he hasn’t been alone.

Adam Frazier hit a 97.7 mph splitter in the next at-bat to put runners on second and third with no outs. Dairon Blanco pinch-ran and was thrown out trying to steal second for the first out, and Duran fanned MJ Melendez for the second before Nick Loftin grounded back to the mound for the final out in a 4-2 victory.

It was Duran’s fifth successful save conversion, a streak he extended to six in Thursday’s 7-6 victory over the Royals. So, in one sense — the one that counts the most — Duran is on a roll. But there’s no escaping the fact that teams are starting to hit him.

Before his current saves streak, Duran swallowed consecutive losses May 17 and May 19, and he has surrendered 10 hits and five earned runs in seven innings in his past eight appearances. Even in his past six saves, opponents are hitting .318 against him.

“Sometimes when things aren’t working smoothly, and you don’t have the 1-2-3 innings, you can start conversing about things,” manager Rocco Baldelli said after Thursday’s game.

The Twins don’t seem overly concerned, probably because Duran, 26, is still throwing hard. Baldelli called it an execution issue.

“He can probably execute, put the pitches in better spots, to get better results,” Baldelli said. “He’s pounding the (strike) zone pretty good, but most of those are probably pitches the hitters can reach with a pretty standard swing right now. I think he could execute a little better. Overall, I think he’s fine.”

Dead-arm issue

After throwing 5⅔ innings in Thursday’s victory, Chris Paddack has pitched 60 in 11 starts. That’s his most innings pitched and starts made since 2021, his last season in San Diego.

Now, the right-hander said Thursday, he’s “kind of going through a dead-arm stage right now.”

Paddack, 28, had a second ligament replacement surgery on his right elbow shortly after being acquired (with Emilio Pagan) by the Twins in the April 2022 deal that sent Taylor Rogers and Brent Rooker to San Diego.

He was roughed up a little by the Royals on Thursday, giving up four earned runs on nine hits and a pair of home runs but kept the Twins in it until they could get their offense going in a 7-6 win.

“I know you all see the velo(city) drop,” he said after the game.

In 2021, when Paddack threw 108 1/3 innings for the Padres, his four-seam fastball averaged 95 mph. It’s down to 93 mph this season and, he noted Thursday, dipped below 90 early in Thursday’s game.

“That’s not me,” he said. “So, I’m just, you know, usin

g this week to make sure we stay on top of the recovery stuff.”

Paddack first had ligament replacement surgery — commonly kn

own as Tommy John surgery — as a minor leaguer in 2016. He had the ulnar collateral ligament repaired again on May 18, 2022.

He said he had been experiencing weakness in the arm for a couple of weeks, saying, “It’s frustrating.” Otherwise, he said, he’s healthy.

“It’s just part of it, man. It’s going to be a thing that I’m going to have to deal with,” he said. “And I think we’re on the uptrend of getting out of it. The ball still feels like a bowling ball out there. So, I’m hoping next outing I get some rest, stay hydrated this week, doing some recovery stuff to, hopefully, see some (9)4s and (9)5s next outing.”

Briefly

Twins third baseman Royce Lewis, on a rehab assignment with Class AAA St. Paul, was 0 for 4 with three strikeouts as Saints’ designated hitter in an 8-2 loss at Rochester, N.Y., on Friday night. Lewis, out with a quad injury since being injured in the season opener, is hitting .158 in five games with St. Paul (3 for 19).

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