MINNEAPOLIS — The weather is warming up in the Twin Cities — and right-hand man Jhoan Duran is bringing even more warmth.
These days, Duran is a threat to set a new Twins speed record seemingly every time he hits the mound – and he did it twice in one run on Saturday, extending his own record up to 103.3 mph on a fastball to Franmil Reyes in the ninth inning of Minnesota’s 3-2 loss to the Guardians.
It was the hardest pitch thrown in the Majors this year, topping a 103.1mph bid thrown by Cardinals right-hander Ryan Helsley on May 1 – and Duran’s own 103.1mph warmer four pitches earlier. .
Not that the calm, unassuming 24-year-old seems to care that he’s taking the radar gun to heights never seen in the Upper Midwest.
“Maybe other people pay more attention to it,” Duran said. “I just try to execute my throws when I throw the ball out there. I just try to throw strikes. I don’t think how hard it is when it leaves my hand.
Considering how traditionally velocity-starved the Twins organization was, fans take notice, though. A murmur of ‘oohs’ echoed through the stadium as the radar gun first flashed 103mph on the video tapes surrounding the ballpark – but at this rate it could soon be the norm as Duran s’ is warmed up. Two outings ago he had set the new Twins record at 102.8 mph. It lasted a week.
There had been 13 shots thrown at 102mph or more in the Majors this season entering the game – and Duran had six. He added five more on Saturday.
Equally importantly, Duran was doing that by pitching back-to-back days for the first time in his professional career, due to his conversion from starter to full-time reliever this season. And adding yet another layer of prominence, Duran isn’t too dependent on that fastball either, as he mixes in a healthy diet of curveballs, cutters and spinkers – including a 98 slinker. .8 mph with bite for the pitch at bat on Reyes.
And even more importantly: Duran knows where those throws are going. He showed great command as a rookie despite all that speed, now with 25 strikeouts and just three walks in 16 2/3 innings.
So… is Duran going to keep hitting bigger and bigger heights from here?
“I don’t know,” said manager Rocco Baldelli. “You can barely see it. Maybe there’s more in there. Too many will remain in the tank for future use, but apparently there is.