Twins call up Louie Varland, insert him into new role in bullpen

CLEVELAND — Louie Varland returned to the Twins on Monday after spending months in Triple-A, and this time, they have a different role in mind for the St. Paulite.

Varland made his first relief appearance of the season on Thursday, throwing four innings of one-run ball for the Saints. Included in those four innings, he threw the four fastest pitches of his career, including one that reached triple digits, clocking in at 100.1 mph.

That’s part of what the Twins were expecting and hoping to see as they move him to the bullpen for the time being and let him settle into a new role.

“There are guys that have to do different things at different times of the year because the circumstances on our team and on our roster change. That happens constantly,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “Right now, he’s a guy that can come out of the ‘pen throwing a high-90s fastball and go right at you, so we’ll see what he can do in that role.”

Varland said he was kind of expecting to hear something about a role change for the time being because he had heard some rumors on social media, but it wasn’t until last week that the idea was brought up with him, he said.

It wasn’t initially his favorite thing to hear — “I believe the best of myself (is) a starter,” he said — but it did get him back to the majors to pitch in the middle of a division race.

“I just had to voice my opinion on it so we’re on the same page, basically,” Varland said. “I felt stubborn and I just had to voice my opinion. But we’re all on the same page now. All hands on deck. I’ll do whatever it takes to win and whatever the Twins need.”

This is the third trip to the majors this season for the 25-year-old, who held a rotation spot in May and part of June before being optioned to Triple-A after giving up 17 earned runs in three starts that month.

Varland, who had a 1.95 earned-run average in 27 2/3 innings pitched with St. Paul in August, takes the roster spot of Cole Sands, who threw 50 pitches in a two-inning relief effort on Sunday for the Twins.

Rehab updates

When the Saints take the field on Tuesday in Louisville, Alex Kirilloff will be with them. Byron Buxton will not.

Both had been rehabbing with the Triple-A club. Kirilloff, who is rehabbing a shoulder injury, will continue to get at-bats for a few more days, Baldelli said, and then the Twins will reassess where he is at that point.

“If we get to that point OK, he’s probably at 20-25 at-bats, which should give us a good gauge on him both physically and on the baseball side,” Baldelli said.

Buxton, meanwhile, will remain in Minnesota where he is getting treatment on his right knee. The Twins’ star played center field last week for the first time in more than a year, spending seven innings out at the position. He was removed early from the next game he played in with soreness in his patella tendon.

When he’s ready and feeling better, Baldelli said Buxton would rejoin the Saints and get more at-bats. As for whether they would send him back into center field, the manager said he doesn’t know the answer to that at this point.

“I think the way he feels is going to dictate whether or not he’s out there in center field or he’s DHing,” Baldelli said.


Sonny Gray (7-6, 2.92) will take the mound on Tuesday in Cleveland opposed by rookie Tanner Bibee (10-3, 3.03 ERA). … Reliever Brock Stewart is slated to throw a 25-pitch bullpen on Tuesday as he tries to make his way back from an arm issue that has sidelined him since late June. … Starter Chris Paddack is in line to pitch three innings in Fort Myers, Fla., on Wednesday as he kicks off a rehab assignment. Paddack is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. … Reliever Jorge Alcala (forearm extensor strain) threw live batting practice in St. Paul on Sunday. He is scheduled to do so on Tuesday in Florida.