Twins are finding success with their temps

MINNEAPOLIS -- While the Twins were honoring their 50 greatest players this past weekend, Matt Fox received a promotion from Class AAA to the majors, flew to Minneapolis, started a his first big-league game Friday night and helped the Twins win.

MINNEAPOLIS -- While the Twins were honoring their 50 greatest players this past weekend, Matt Fox received a promotion from Class AAA to the majors, flew to Minneapolis, started a his first big-league game Friday night and helped the Twins win.

Sunday morning, the Twins designated Fox for assignment, meaning he'll have to clear waivers to be demoted to Class AAA Rochester.

This time next year, the Twins should honor their 50 most obscure contributors, and they might want to name the weekend after Fox, the latest pennant-race temp trying to turn his cup of coffee into a magnum of champagne.

While the Twins were honoring their legends, their legends remembered the likes of Billy Beane, Bobby Keppel, Jeff Bittiger and now Fox, men who weren't sure whether they'd go down in history or just go back down to the minors.

Fox was rushed to the majors on Friday, a night after the Twins burned through three starting pitchers in an extra-innings loss. He hadn't even earned a September callup, and suddenly he was asked to win a game in a pennant race.


Fox lasted 5Xc innings as the Twins beat the Rangers, making him this year's Bittiger, who made an emergency start for the Twins on Sept. 7, 1987, and beat the White Sox during the Twins' first championship season.

Bittiger spent 189 games in the minors before that victory. He would not win again for the Twins, would be cut in November, and would win only two more big-league games. "He did a nice job for us that day," said Twins bullpen coach and unofficial historian Rick Stelmaszek. "We needed it."

Saturday marked the 23rd anniversary of another surprising contribution to that '87 team. Billy Beane, a failed first-round draft pick for the Mets who would become the Oakland A's general manager, was called up from the minors in September.

On Sept. 4, he entered the game in the 11th inning as a defensive replacement for Don Baylor and won the game with a bases-loaded single off Milwaukee's Dan Plesac in the bottom of the 12th.

It was one of four hits the career .219 hitter would get for the Twins that year. "I remember that," former Twin Dan Gladden said. "Billy remembers that, too, because it was the only big hit he ever got in his career."

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire visits the Twins' spring training clubhouse every March. "I say, somebody here is going to come to the big leagues this year and help us win a ballgame," he said. "And somebody's going to be a surprise, because you're going to do well enough down here that we need you. Every year I say that, and every year it happens.

"Matt Fox -- I don't know if you can get a bigger surprise than that."

Unless you think back a year, when another failed Mets first-round draft pick, Bobby Keppel, earned his only big-league victory in relief in Game 163 to put the Twins into the playoffs, before cashing in on his one season of success with a contract in Japan.


The winning run in that game was produced by two players who had earned benchings during the season -- Carlos Gomez, who scored the winning run, and his best friend, Alexi Casilla, who drove him in.

Or you can think back to 2008, when journeyman Bobby Korecky, on May 19, earned his first big-league victory and became the first Twins pitcher to get a hit since the advent of the designated hitter rule in a 12-inning victory over Texas.

Jack Morris, who starred for the Tigers before signing with the Twins, remembers, strangely, the 1984 season, when his Tigers started 35-5 on their way to a World Series victory.

"We had a lot of guys who would become big names," Morris said. "But when we started on that unbelievable roll, it was a new kid every day. Marty Castillo, Rusty Kuntz, Barbaro Garbey, who was huge for us. In 1987, Jim Walewander -- for a couple of weeks, he's stealing bases and hitting doubles.

"In '84, we had eight or nine no-name, never-heard-from-again guys who were way out over their skis. After about 15 wins, we started a chant in the clubhouse -- 'Who wants to be on the front page of the sports section today? Step right up. Who wants to be the hero today?' Nobody cared who it was."

Managers like to say it takes 25 guys to win, but over a six-month regular season it takes more like 35 or 40.

Gardenhire remembers the 1991 season, when the Twins called up speedy outfielder Jarvis Brown in September, to pinch-run and play the field. Brown would score one run in the ALCS in 1991 while a first-year coach under Tom Kelly by the name of Gardenhire watched.

Saturday, Gardenhire mentioned Brown, Paul Revere and lanterns while dropping hints that he would like prospect Ben Revere on his roster. Sunday, Revere arrived, hopeful of becoming the next Twin to turn a cup of coffee into a magnum of champagne.


Souhan writes for the Star Tribune (Minneapolis).

What To Read Next
Get Local