Twins closer Duran earns save in first game off injured list

CHICAGO – After the first 28 games of the season, the Twins featured the third-lowest bullpen ERA (2.54) with the second-highest strikeout rate. All teams would take those numbers, but the Twins accomplished it without their closer.

Jhoan Duran was activated from the 15-day injured list Tuesday after dealing with an oblique strain in spring training. Duran, one of the hardest throwers in the world, gives the Twins another quality arm to pitch in late innings, and he earned the save by pitching a scoreless ninth inning in Tuesday night's 6-5 victory over the White Sox.

"I didn't really plan on pitching him in a one-run game for a save in his first outing back, but that's the way it played out," manager Rocco Baldelli said. "He was up for the task."

Reliever Matt Bowman was designated for assignment to make room for Duran on the 26-man roster.

"I feel excited because I'm coming back to help," Duran said Monday. "I know they're doing a great job right now. They're doing great and having a lot of fun. I want to be there soon to be a part of that group."

Bringing back Duran gives the Twins more flexibility when they want to deploy Griffin Jax and Brock Stewart. Jax, who leads the club with four saves, gave up three runs in 12 innings with 17 strikeouts through Monday. Stewart hasn't allowed a run in 12⅓ innings while compiling 17 strikeouts.

Duran had a 2.45 ERA in 62⅓ innings last year, his first season as the Twins' full-time closer, and he secured 27 saves in 32 opportunities.

"It's scary," Byron Buxton said. "Our bullpen has been doing a great job. To add Duran back to that mix is a big piece of getting our team back together and continuing what we've been doing."

Duran made two rehab appearances with the St. Paul Saints before he was activated. His velocity was up in his last outing, reaching 103 mph with his fastball, and he says he cleaned up his pitching mechanics after his velocity was slightly down in spring training.

The Twins entered the season with confidence in their bullpen, but they have been mostly dominant despite missing Duran and Justin Topa for the first month of the season, and Caleb Thielbar started the season on the injured list. Topa made his second rehab appearance with the St. Paul Saints in Tuesday's 7-5 loss to Louisville at CHS Field, giving up three hits and three runs (two earned) during his inning of work while pitching with lower velocity than he showed last year. Topa walked one and also hit a batter.

Bowman, who is out of minor league options, gave up two hits and two runs in 7⅔ innings with four walks and six strikeouts. The Twins have a week to place the 32-year-old Bowman on waivers or trade him.

"He was ready for everything we asked him to do," Baldelli said of Bowman. "I really hope we get to keep Matt in the organization. He's done a good job and I think he's getting better at this point still, even as a veteran pitcher who has been around for a little while."


• David Festa struck out 10 Louisville batters in five innings in Tuesday's loss, tying the record for most strikeouts in a game by a Saints pitcher since the club became affiliated with the Twins in 2021. Festa, who gave up three hits, two runs and one walk, matched a record set by Jax.

• Jorge Alcala gave up one hit in a scoreless eighth inning, striking out one. It was the first time the reliever pitched since April 21 because he spent time on paternity leave.

Josh Winder, who is on the 60-day injured list after missing all of spring training, began a minor league rehab assignment with Class A Fort Myers on Tuesday. The righthander gave up four hits and two runs in 1⅔ innings, adding four strikeouts.