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Reusse: 'The Tonk' crisscrossed globe before returning to Twins

The Twins made a shocking roster move to address pitching injuries Tuesday, although only if you were a follower of those teams that put a quick end to the magic of Target Field in the middle of the previous decade.

The local ballclub spent one entire night with 12 pitchers, that being a 4-2 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday. The Twins solved that bullpen shortage by putting right fielder Max Kepler, dealing with a sore knee and an ill batting average (.050), on the injured list and purchasing …

Are you ready for this? Purchasing Michael Tonkin, the 6-foot-7 righthander who arrived in Minnesota as an intriguing 23-year-old prospect in 2013 and departed with his release after the 2017 season.

Fortunately for my old ticker, Tonkin actually being back in the big leagues did not come as a complete surprise — thanks to viewing an Atlanta Braves game early last season.

"That looks like Michael Tonkin warming up," I said, peering at the screen, followed by the exclamation: "That is The Tonk!"

My last true memory of The Tonk was being in the clubhouse on the last day of spring training in 2017, the first year for the new Derek Falvey administration.

We had spent considerable time that spring talking up what seemed like a new ability to handle big league pitching for Byung-Ho Park, the slugger brought in from Korean baseball a year earlier with the hope that he could serve as a designated hitter for the Twins.

On this day, with the squad cuts not yet announced, Falvey had showed up in the clubhouse and Park was summoned to the office of manager Paul Molitor.

Tonkin took in the drama of the summons and then started saying in a low voice to teammates: "I think they're sending out Byung-Ho."

That long neck, quiet manner and having been the victim of several such summonses in his Twins career … The Tonk could read a room.

Park stayed in Class AAA Rochester, N.Y., that season and then returned to Korea, where his bat speed worked well. Tonkin was designated for assignment early in the 2017 season by the Twins, was Park's teammate that summer with the Red Wings, came back for a few games late that season and then disappeared.

Kepler and Byron Buxton are the only current Twins who were teammates with Tonkin at the end of his Minnesota time.

Glen Perkins, now a Twins broadcaster, spent a lot of time with Tonkin in the bullpen — as Perkins was closing and making three All-Star teams.

He did not have duties at the ballyard Tuesday and was asked this question by phone: "What do you think of The Tonk being back?"

Perkins said: "I couldn't believe it when I heard it. I didn't know he still existed as far as baseball was concerned."

Same here, until I saw him with Atlanta early last season.

"That's right," Perkins said. "He was with the Braves. I did see that last year. I think he pitched in Korea for a while, didn't he?"

Japan. And the Mexican League. And was a teammate with former Twins outfielder Lew Ford with the Long Island Ducks.

"That's an amazing journey," Perkins said. "It shows that you should never give up, as long as you're healthy. He was a quirky dude, but a good guy."

Justin Morneau, working the Twins telecast, was another teammate and also celebrating the return of Tonkin.

"You have to give him a lot of credit for making it back with Atlanta," Morneau said. "He was gone from the big leagues for five, six years."

Wide smile and Morneau said: "I just texted Kubel. He has to be excited."

Jason Kubel broke in as a lefty-hitting outfielder for the Twins in 2006, and followed that with four powerful seasons. He ran into injuries, spent two years with Arizona and Cleveland — and also had a second stay with the Twins, for 45 games in 2014, to end his career.

The connection with Tonkin and Kubel is that they are brothers-in-law.

The Tonk has been to so many places to get back to Minnesota, he deserves a standing O at Target Field when the tall gent wearing No. 39 ambles from the home bullpen.

You should even forgive Tonkin for giving up those three runs to Washington in the ninth inning of the 2023 regular-season finale, sending the Braves back to the plate in the bottom of ninth to receive a home run from Marcell Ozuna.

And that meant the 2019 Twins and the 2023 Braves now share the major league record of 307 home runs in a season, rather than Minnesota holding it alone.

Welcome back, Tonk. And, yes, Byung-Ho Park is still playing in Korea.