Twins getting big lift from Big Pelf

Veteran's ERA sits at 2.25 with rotation spot locked down

Twins getting big lift from Big Pelf

MINNEAPOLIS -- For a pitcher who wasn't even supposed to be a part of the club's rotation to open the year, Twins right-hander Mike Pelfrey has made the most of his opportunity early this season.

Pelfrey, moved from the bullpen into the rotation after Ervin Santana's 80-game suspension, was at it again Tuesday night, giving up two runs (one earned) on just three hits over seven strong innings to help lead the Twins to a 3-2 win over the Tigers. Pelfrey improved to 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in four starts and has been the club's best starter early this year.

It was the second straight start Pelfrey went at least seven innings with one earned run allowed or fewer, and marked the first time he'd gone at least seven frames in back-to-back starts since 2011. It's come at an important time, as Ricky Nolasco is set to be activated from the 15-day disabled list as early as this weekend, and Pelfrey's job in the rotation appears secure, even if it's something he says he hasn't been thinking about.

"I try not to worry about that," Pelfrey said. "I'm healthy, so I have high expectations of myself. I feel good. I have a lot of confidence in myself that when I'm healthy, I'm going to get guys out and hopefully it keeps happening on the field."

Pelfrey is finally healthy with the Twins, as his first year with the club in 2013 was his first coming back from Tommy John surgery, and he made just five starts last year before undergoing another elbow surgery. His velocity has been in the mid-90s and he's credited an improved slider and splitter for his success, as well as better command in recent outings.

"My first start in Chicago, I had my best stuff of the year but kept leaving balls over the plate," said Pelfrey, who gave up four runs his first outing, but just two in 19 innings since then. "So that's kind of been my focus ever since."

Pelfrey's performance kept the Twins in the game, and helped set the stage for a two-run seventh inning against Tigers right-hander Anibal Sanchez. Catcher Kurt Suzuki had the go-ahead RBI single off Sanchez, and credited Pelfrey for pitching well enough to give the Twins a chance late in the game.

"It's always nice when a pitcher gives you good innings like that and battles his butt off out there to be able to get him the win," Suzuki said. "It's always a good feeling."

The Twins still aren't tipping their hand on what they'll do once Nolasco returns, or if Nolasco will need another rehab start this weekend. But Pelfrey has solidified his spot in the rotation, and it's welcome news to Twins manager Paul Molitor.

"We're hungry for good starting pitching, and it's been that way here for a while," Molitor said.

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.