Varland set for major league debut as Twins face Yankees in doubleheader

·3 min read

NEW YORK — With rain falling all day on the Five Boroughs, the Twins-Yankees game Tuesday was postponed to be part of a doubleheader on Wednesday.

And while the inclement weather did delay the Joe Ryan-Gerrit Cole pitching duel, a major debut is still on as planned Wednesday.

News broke late Monday that the Twins were set to call upon St. Paul native Louie Varland to start Wednesday, with a couple of injuries among the rotation causing a changeup. Sonny Gray had to push to Thursday after tweaking his right hamstring in this past Friday's start while Tyler Mahle only briefly came off the injured list before continued right shoulder inflammation sent him right back there.

Varland played at North St. Paul High School and Division II Concordia-St. Paul. The Twins took the now-24-year-old in the 15th round of the 2019 draft. His brother, pitcher Gus Varland, was a 14th-round pick for Oakland in the previous year's draft and is now in the Dodgers' system, and the two faced each other in a Class AA game this season with Louie getting the victory.

By the end of the 2021 season, Louie Varland became the Twins' Minor League Pitcher of the Year after splitting time between Class A Fort Myers and Cedar Rapids, collecting a 10-4 record and 2.10 ERA.

In 2022, the 6-1, 205-pound righthander ascended from Class AA Wichita with a 3.34 ERA and 7-4 record in 19 starts and 20 appearances. In his four Saints starts this season, he has a 1.69 ERA and 1-1 record, striking out 27 in 21⅓ innings.

Unfortunately, his MLB debut won't be quite so close to home, as he'll pitch Game 1 at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Yankee Stadium. The Twins as of Tuesday evening had yet to make the move paperwork official with the corresponding maneuvers on the active and 40-man rosters. That could involve designating Aaron Sanchez for assignment, since he was the spot starter who filled in for Mahle during his first IL stint.

Varland will face Yankees righty Domingo German (2-3, 3.12 ERA). Ryan (10-7, 3.88) will take on Cole (10-7, 3.28) in the nightcap.

That all is still a bit unsure, as the forecast shows consistent rain throughout the area all Wednesday as well.

It's a heavy situation for a rookie. Varland will be contending with potentially sloppy weather, a slugger having a historic season and a powerhouse team that's been one of the best in the American League all year. Should the outing go sideways, there's a chance it mars the confidence of a promising prospect who has done nothing but succeed recently.

Twins manager Rocco Baldelli, though, wasn't worried about that risk. While he didn't mention Varland specifically, he emphasized confidence in the Twins' system preparing young players for big moments.

"That wouldn't bother me one bit to pitch [a rookie]," Baldelli said Monday. "We're going to pitch whoever we think the best pitcher is for that spot on that day. And I mean, hypothetically, I would never hesitate to put a young pitcher on the mound and just let him go do his job."

The Twins will be looking to bounce back from a 5-2 loss in Monday's first game of the four-game series, as the Yankees rode Aaron Judge's major league leading 54th home run to the victory.

Judge is the favorite for the AL MVP award as he's on pace to break ex-Yankee Roger Maris' longstanding league record of 61 homers, set in 1961; Judge has 27 games remaining. He also has carried the Yankees to the top spot in the AL East, while the Twins are 1½ games behind first-place Cleveland in the AL Central.