He didn’t know for sure until the phone rang. As the Twins prepared to bat in the eighth inning Sunday, Jared Burton watched bullpen coach Bobby Cuellar pick up the receiver, listen for a moment, then turn to him as he hung up. “He says, ‘Burton, you got it,” the veteran reliever recounted. “I said, ‘All right — let’s do it.’ ” And so he did, needing only 12 pitches, nine of them strikes, to finish off the White Sox and the Twins’ first-ever four-game sweep in Target Field. Glen Perkins needed a day off after pitching in three straight games, so Burton — who didn’t know ahead of time that he would get the ninth inning — threw a breaking ball in the dirt that Conor Gillaspie chased, a high fastball that Dayan Viciedo missed, and fielded Alejandro De Aza’s surprise bunt himself for the final out of the Twins’ 6-5 victory, earning his first save in more than a year. “They’re trying to get on base, so most of the time they’re going to take a strike in the ninth,” said Burton, whose last save came on May 30, 2013. “If you can get ahead 0-and-1 on every hitter, you’re going to be a lot better off.” If Burton is returning to the form he showed a year ago, when the bullpen was the team’s strongest element, the Twins are going to be a lot better off, too. The bullpen ERA of 3.61 ranks fifth in the American League — and that includes a once-wobbly Burton. He is still digging out of an awful first six weeks, when he gave up runs in half of his first 10 appearances and lost his eighth-inning job to Casey Fien. At 5.52, his ERA still isn’t healthy. But he is, finally, and his recovery might be one of the most important developments for the final 90 games. “I’m feeling good, man. It’s been a little inconsistent year, a frustrating year mentally and physically. But you have to stay on an even keel,” said Burton, 33. “I know that eventually, you’re going to get a little momentum and get on a roll.” Looks like the Twins might have, too, and they can thank the schedule-maker for it. After a road trip that took them to visit two first-place teams and the reigning world champion — an Eastern trudge that ended miserably with five losses in a row — the AL provided the perfect rebound opponent. The White Sox are the most pleasant, reassuring guests — challenging, entertaining, but at the critical moments, accommodating, too.
Burton seals Twins' four-game sweep of White Sox
Minneapolis Star Tribune | Jun 23