This year's Twins team has seen multiple players step up and come out of the woodwork to become big-time contributors to their 101-win season.
Maybe one of the biggest surprises is right-handed pitcher Randy Dobnak.
Sporting a pair of wacky glasses, Dobnak might end up starting a playoff game in the ALDS against the Yankees, something that seemed impossible not too long ago considering he didn't make his MLB debut until Aug. 9.
Dobnak was sent back to Triple-A after his debut but was called up for good at the end of the month.
The Twins initially used him as a late-inning reliever in his first three appearances, and he even picked up a save. But after the Twins lost Michael Pineda to suspension, and facing significant deficiencies in their starting rotation, Minnesota started using him as an opener.
And ever since, he's gone from opener to starting pitcher – and a good one at that. Here's his game log in the month of September.
- Sept. 3: 1 inning, 0 runs, 0 hits, 2 strikeouts and 1 walk
- Sept. 8: 2 innings, 1 earned runs, 3 hits, 1 strikeout and 1 walk
- Sept 11: 1 inning, 1 earned run, 1 hit and 1 strikeout
- Sept 15: 5 innings, 1 earned run, 6 hits, 2 strikeouts and 1 walk
- Sept. 20: 5.1 innings, 1 earned run, 3 hits, 5 strikeouts and 2 walks
- Sept. 25: 6 innings, 1 earned run, 1 hit, 6 strikeouts
Dobank has faced 81 batters in September, owning a 2.21 ERA in 20.1 innings with opponents slashing a meager .192/.272/.260 (.532 OPS) against him.
So you can understand why he's earned the trust to start a playoff game over the likes of Kyle Gibson and Martin Perez, who would probably be a liability on the mound based on there 2019 track records.
Dobnak started the 2019 season in High-A Fort Myers before ending up in the big leagues and was named the organization's Minor League Pitcher of the Year. In 24 games (21 starts), Dobank owned an ERA of 2.07 across the minors this season.
He's been an incredible story and now he'll likely be tasked with facing the New York Yankees – possibly at Yankee Stadium – this weekend.
Comparing Dobnak to Boof
Dobnak's rise is similar to another cult hero in Twins folklore as Boof Bonser in 2006 had a similar story.
Bonser made his MLB debut in 2006 and was up and down between the MLB and Triple-A Rochester before staying for good that August.
He helped stabilize a rotation that had lost Francisco Liriano to a season-ending injury, and was without Brad Radke for most of September because of a shoulder problem.
From Aug. 12 through end of the season, Bonser became the second best option behind Cy Young winner Johan Santana. In 10 starts, Bonser filled the void with an ERA of 3.26 in 60.2 innings, along with 52 strikeouts and only 10 walks.
He ended up starting Game 2 of the ALDS against the Oakland Athletics and was once again dynamite going six innings, allowing just two earned runs before Minnesota's bullpen failed to deliver in a 5-2 loss.
Unfortunately for Bonser, he was never the same after that magical 2006 season. Over his next two seasons with the Twins, Bonser had a 5.44 ERA and became more of a mop-up man in the bullpen before having a last ride with Boston and Oakland in 2010. He was out of the big leagues by the time he was 28.
So hopefully Dobnak has a better career than Bonser, but regardless the Twins will need him to be a stopper in the postseason.
If he can't deliver, it's going to be awfully tough for the Twins' pitching staff to make a deep run in the postseason, even with their historic offense leading the way.