Rookie Joins Pitching Staff
May 28, 2009

On May 23, Minnesota rookie Anthony Swarzak became the first pitcher in Twins history to start a game and pitch seven scoreless innings in his major league debut.

The performance was an unexpected surprise, especially in view of the fact that Swarzak was the losing pitcher in his last start for the AAA Rochester Red Wings. He gave up four runs and 11 hits to the Durham Bulls. His record with the Red Wings was three wins and four losses. Nevertheless, Swarzak got the call to the big leagues on May 20 after Craig Breslow was claimed off waivers by the Oakland Athletics.

A native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Swarzak was selected by Minnesota in the second round (61st overall) of the 2004 MLB first-year player draft out of Nova High School. He subsequently advanced through the Twins system with stops with the Gulf Coast League Twins, Beloit, Fort Myers, New Britain, and Rochester. His best year was 2006 when he went 11-7 for the Fort Myers Miracle. Swarzak was ranked one of the top Twins prospects by Baseball America in each of the last five seasons.

Swarzak was selected by manager Ron Gardenhire to start the May 28 matinee game with the Boston Red Sox at the Metrodome. He responded with another sterling performance, going four innings without giving up a run. In the fifth, Boston catcher Jason Varitek touched Swarzak with a home run to right, which tied the game 1-1. He pitched through the sixth inning and should have been lifted then, but Gardenhire’s lack of confidence in the Twin shaky bullpen kept him in the game at the top of the seventh. Swarzak promptly gave up another homer to Varitek and a bloop double to Jeff Bailey. He was replaced by reliever Jesse Crain.

It is here were things got interesting. Julio Lugo flied out to right, Bailey advancing to third. Crain was replaced by Senn Henn, who hit Jacoby Ellsbury with a pitch. Dustin Pedroia flied to right. Bailey tagged up and scored from third. Minnesota catcher Mike Redmond indicated to home plate umpire Todd Tichenor that he had tagged Bailey out and was ejected from the game. Gardenhire protested, and he, too was ejected. Then, in the bottom of the same inning, Varitek was ejected by by the hair-trigger Tichenor for suggesting that Red Sox starter Josh Beckett was throwing more strikes than balls. Boston manager Terry Francona then was tossed for advocating that Varitek was justified in his criticism. Thus, in the course of one inning, the umpire had tossed two starting catchers and two managers. In the Twins case, this was particularly vexing since designated hitter Joe Mauer replaced Redmond, and left Minnesota without a DH.

Tichenor, an AAA umpire, filling in for the veteran Ed Montague, apparently is the type of person you don’t want to make eye contact with when you encounter him on the street. Should you be diving in your auto and cut off a car piloted by Tichenor, you might want to duck to avoid a hail of bullets. After the game, Tichenor wasn’t available for comment.

Despite the loss, the Twins split the four-game series with the Beantown Nine. The Red Sox in this century buried the Curse of the Bambino with World Series victories in 2004 and 2007, and chances are good that Boston will wind up in the Fall Classic this October. The Twins, on the other hand, will spend the majority of June on the road. This season, Minnesota has lost 14 out of 19 contests played away from the Metrodome.

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