For a while last season, Cole De Vries wondered if his chance to pitch for his hometown Minnesota Twins would ever come.
As a 27-year-old pitcher in his sixth minor league season, De Vries had yet to make his major league debut. Last year marked his second season with Triple-A Rochester, and while he pitched well for the Red Wings, he sat by watching his teammates make the leap from the minors to the majors.
"With how a few things kind of happened in the beginning of the season, I was kind of sitting there and I was like, 'Wow. Is it going to happen this year?'" De Vries said. "I was pitching well and everything and a couple other guys got called up. So then I was kind of getting a little down, to be honest with you."
Then, one day in late May, De Vries was called into Rochester manager Gene Glynn's office. Glynn had good news for De Vries: he was finally getting called up to the Twins, the team he grew up watching as a kid in Eden Prairie.
De Vries' baseball dream had finally come true.
"It was a huge shock," De Vries recalls. "I didn't even know how to react to it."
Once up with the Twins, De Vries made 17 appearances, including 16 starts, as part of a patchwork pitching rotation for last-place Minnesota. De Vries' 2012 season was a mixed bag as far as his individual results were concerned. He went 5-5 with a 4.11 ERA and struck out 58 batters and walked 18 in 87 23 innings. He also surrendered 16 home runs, nearly one per appearance.
Along the way, there were some impressive outings, such as the start he made in Texas in early July when he held the Rangers scoreless for seven innings on just three hits. But there were also some clunkers in the mix. He gave up eight runs on seven hits in just 1 13 innings in a loss to Tampa Bay in August, perhaps the low point of his young major league career.
In September, De Vries seemed to be figuring things out as he won three straight games, including two quality starts. But in a game against Cleveland on Sept. 8, De Vries was hit in the ribs by a line drive. It not only knocked the right-hander from the game, but it ended his season prematurely as he was placed on the disabled list.
"It really kind of was (frustrating), especially because at that time I felt I was really getting things going a little bit. I figured I had three or four good starts in a row," De Vries said. "It's also one of those things, what are you going to do?"
The rib injury sidelined De Vries for four weeks, but he's since resumed throwing as part of his winter regimen. He's also spent the offseason traveling the world. Once the Twins' season ended, De Vries attended the wedding of former Minnesota third baseman Danny Valencia in Florida, as well as the wedding of the children of two former Twins Dan Gladden's daughter, Ashley, and Gary Gaetti's son, Joe in Arizona. De Vries went to high school with Whitney Gladden and also was briefly a teammate of Joe Gaetti at Double-A New Britain in 2009.
Aside from that, De Vries and his family spent Christmas in Dubai and New Year's in Amsterdam. Now, he's back in Minnesota, where he spends the offseason. De Vries has been working out in Eden Prairie as well as the University of Minnesota campus, where he once starred for the Gophersbaseball team.
A world traveler this offseason, De Vries hopes his travels in 2013 will include trips to Cleveland, Detroit and Chicago rather than Pawtucket, Toledo and Norfolk.
The Twins had the worst rotation in the American League last season and added several veterans to plug the gaps. Along with left-hander Scott Diamond (Minnesota's best pitcher in 2012), the Twins figure that newly acquired Vance Worley, Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey will fill spots in rotation. But that leaves a fifth and final spot, which will likely be filled by an in-house candidate.
De Vries is hoping it'll be him.
"That's what I'm gunning for is trying to be one of the back end of the rotation guys," De Vries said. "Hopefully I can hold that down for the team, give them some good outings and good starts out of the back end. That's what I'm going into camp looking to lock down for myself is to be that No. 4, No. 5 guy. I know they went out and signed some veteran guys, but I don't think there's any reason why I can't be that back end guy or outperform some of those guys to make sure I have a spot on the opening roster."
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