FORT MYERS, Fla. — The unusually slow free-agent market took Lance Lynn‘s wait to find a team through the winter and well into spring training.
The offer he settled on from the Minnesota Twins also came with the expectation of pennant race and perhaps postseason pitching.
“I wanted to go somewhere where they had a chance to win no matter what,” Lynn said on Tuesday at his introductory news conference. “It seemed like the perfect fit, and I look forward to doing what I have to do, which is take the ball when it is my turn.”
Lynn agreed to a $12 million, one-year contract that includes bonuses of $1 million each for 170 and 180 innings. He was given a turn right away and struck out five batters in three hitless innings of an exhibition against Baltimore. He walked one.
“Other than that, everything went about as smooth as it possibly could,” Lynn said. “Get ready for the next and kind of keep the buildup for opening day.”
Twins manager Paul Molitor said Lynn will make another start on Sunday.
“We’re trying to look at the best way we can to get him ready to help us out of the gate at some point,” Molitor said. “At the same time, trying to caution him that first time on a new team, even veteran people sometimes try to overstate their case early. So we’ll be tracking him.”
The Twins are anticipating more performances like Tuesday’s when the wins and losses actually count and he’s stretched out over a full game.
“When you talk about a competitor and the makeup every time he takes the mound, this is somebody who’s going to help lead our pitching staff and all our young players, given his experience and who he is as a player,” chief baseball officer Derek Falvey said.
Lynn, who won a World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals as a rookie in 2011, has pitched 52 postseason innings. He joked that he picked the Twins because he grew up in Indiana and likes the cold, but they’re serious about playing into October when the temperatures drop.
Lynn has joined fellow newcomer Jake Odorizzi in the rotation, and Fernando Rodney, Addison Reed and Zach Duke were added to the bullpen. Logan Morrison was, like Lynn, picked up at a bargain price to be the designated hitter and play some first base.
“I’m here for one year. We’ll see how it goes. Maybe I can be here for longer,” Lynn said.
Asked whether the slow market left him with a chip on his shoulder, Lynn said, “The chip on my shoulder’s been there since I was born. I’m pretty sure that’s the way my dad says it. That’s something I use to compete, and it helps drive me.”
To stay sharp, Lynn has been throwing bullpen sessions and simulated games while working out in Florida.
“Trying to give it as much intensity as possible to be ready to when I step in, I could go right into games and try to be ready as fast as possible for the season,” Lynn said before his Twins debut.
Lynn, still progressing in his recovery from Tommy John surgery that caused him to miss the 2016 season, tied a career high and tied for the NL lead with 33 starts last year. The 39th overall pick by the Cardinals in the 2008 amateur draft went 11-8 with a 3.43 ERA in 2017, and he was 72-47 with a 3.38 ERA in six seasons with the Cardinals.
With Odorizzi, Jose Berrios, Ervin Santana and Kyle Gibson in place, there’s not much competition left in camp for starting spots. Molitor has said he’ll use a four-man rotation as much as possible in April while Santana recovers from finger surgery. Phil Hughes and Tyler Duffey could be relegated to long relief.
“There is a certain grittiness to the way Lance goes about his job, and hopefully it will permeate its way through our clubhouse to some degree,” Molitor said.
The Twins, not coincidentally, sent down prospects Stephen Gonsalves, Adalberto Mejia and Aaron Slegers to Triple-A Rochester and Fernando Romero to Double-A Chattanooga before the game. Mejia made 21 starts for the Twins last year.
“It’s just another high-end piece for us,” Molitor said. “As a manager, when you have these types of moves, it is really exciting.”