MINNEAPOLIS — The weather is warming up in the Twin Cities — and Jhoan Duran’s right arm is bringing even more heat.
These days, Duran is a threat to set a new Twins velocity record seemingly every time he touches the mound — and he did that twice over a one-inning appearance 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.
That was the hardest pitch thrown in the Majors this year, surpassing a 103.1 mph offering thrown by Cardinals right-hander Ryan Helsley on May 1 — and Duran’s own 103.1 mph heater four pitches earlier.
Not that the quiet, unassuming 24-year-old seems to care at all that he’s taking the radar gun to heights never before seen in the Upper Midwest.
“Maybe some other people are paying more attention to that,” Duran said. “I’m just trying to execute my pitches when I’m throwing the ball out there. I’m just trying to throw strikes. I’m not thinking about how hard it is when it’s leaving my hand.”
Considering how velocity-starved the Twins’ organization has traditionally been, fans notice, though. A murmur of “oohs” reverberated around the stadium when the radar gun first flashed 103 mph on the video ribbons circling the ballpark — but at this rate, that might soon be the norm as Duran has heated up. Two outings ago, he’d set the new Twins record at 102.8 mph. That lasted a week.
There had been 13 pitches thrown 102 mph or harder in the Majors this season entering the game — and Duran owned six of them. He added five more on Saturday.
Just as significant, Duran was doing this while pitching on 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 another layer of significance still, Duran isn’t overly reliant on this fastball, either, as he mixes in a healthy diet of curveballs, cutters and “splinkers” — including a 98.8 mph splinker with bite for the strikeout pitch on Reyes.
And even more significantly still: Duran knows where these pitches are going. He’s exhibited great command as a rookie despite all this velocity, now with 25 strikeouts and only three walks in 16 2/3 innings.
So … is Duran just going to keep reaching greater and greater heights from here?
“I don’t know,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “You can barely see it. Maybe there’s more in there. I can’t tell. They all look pretty hard from the dugout when we’re sitting there. When you think that you’ve seen the 100, then you see the 101, you generally think there’s not going to be too much more left in the tank for future use. But apparently, there is.”