KINTZLER STELLAR IN CLOSING ROLE FOR TWINS

KINTZLER STELLAR IN CLOSING ROLE FOR TWINS

Independent Baseball Chatter – by Bob Wirz

Except for one time two years ago when he was on an injury-rehab stint, Brandon Kintzler has not started a game since back in 2009 when he split his time between the St. Paul Saints and Milwaukee’s Class AA farm club in Huntsville, Ala.

Don’t expect that to happen, either, for the now 32-year-old since he has turned into an effective closer for the Minnesota Twins.

The Las Vegas native started in 11 of his 14 appearances for the Saints, where he won eight of 11 decisions and rang up a nice 2.79 earned run average, which got him signed by the Brewers, who gave him six more starts in the Southern League that season.

Kintzler, one of the American Association’s six players who have been active in the major leagues so far this season (two others are on disabled lists), has allowed only one hit in his first 4.1 innings while earning three saves.  Although currently bothered a bit by a cracked right index fingernail, he seems poised to surpass last year’s breakout campaign as a closer when he picked up the first 17 saves of what now is an eighth part or fulltime summer in the majors.

One of those who watches Kintzler closely is former relief standout Eddie Guardado, Minnesota’s bullpen coach.  There is irony in the connection between the two men.

“I was 10 when I first met him,” Kintzler recounted during a recent interview with The St. Paul (MN) Pioneer Press.  “Eddie always talked about hard work.  That always stuck with me, forever.”

It certainly seems like that lesson did last because Kintzler was playing for a Las Vegas travel team of 10 to 12 year olds known as the Yard Dawgs at that time, and Guardado would talk to the youngsters when he was around.  The left-hander was getting a nice start in what turned out to be a 183-save career mostly with the same Minnesota Twins.

The Yankees Like This Indy Grad

It is well known that not every professional baseball player gets to live out his dream playing regularly in the major leagues, but that does not mean he cannot establish a solid career.  Some turn into respected organizational players who stay in some club’s farm system for years, filling in when needed and either officially or unofficially mentoring those with greater playing skills.

Onetime El Paso (2009) and Sioux Falls (2010) catcher Eddy Rodriguez seems to be fitting into that mould.

After spending the last two seasons of a pro career that started when he was 20 in the upper ranks of the New York Yankees’ minor league system, the now 31-year-old was a non-roster invitee with Minnesota during spring training.  He even got into 14 exhibition games (1-for-17).

When the Twins released Rodriguez, the Yankees quickly signed the Cuban native for a second tour of duty and sent him back to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he helped the RailRiders win both the Governors’ Cup and Triple-A championship last September.  This could be his home for some time, especially since the Yankees needed Scranton’s other backstop, Kyle Higashioka, in The Bronx while regular catcher Gary Sanchez is disabled.

Rodriguez does have two memorable major league games on his resume.  They came five years ago with San Diego, with the husky catcher getting a home run from among his five at-bats.

Previously the chief spokesman for Baseball Commissioners Bowie Kuhn and Peter Ueberroth, Bob Wirz has been writing extensively about Independent Baseball since 2003.  He is a frequent contributor to this site, has a blog, www.IndyBaseballChatter.com, and his book, “The Passion of Baseball”, came out in October and is available at traditional book-buying sites, or at  www.WirzandAssociates.com.