Molitor reaffirms faith in Jepsen as closer

Twins' manager reassures right-hander, who's blown last 2 save opportunities

Molitor reaffirms faith in Jepsen as closer

MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins manager Paul Molitor said he met with Kevin Jepsen after Tuesday's 6-5 win over the Indians to reiterate that he's still the club's closer despite blowing his last two save opportunities.

Molitor wanted to reassure Jepsen that he still has confidence in him going forward, and that he'll remain as the closer in Glen Perkins' absence. Jepsen couldn't hold a one-run lead in the Twins' eventual loss to the Nationals in 16 innings on Sunday, when he surrendered a tying solo homer to Bryce Harper, and he did the same on Tuesday, when he gave up a solo blast to Mike Napoli to tie the game.

"You talk about the games that haven't gone his way and it's been one pitch, one call or one play," Molitor said. "It's been a really fine line. And when you're playing one-run games like we've been, that's all it takes to blow a save."

Napoli's game-tying homer

Jepsen is 2-3 with a 4.66 ERA in 10 appearances this season, striking out seven and walking three in 9 2/3 innings, and has been unable to convert three of his five save chances. He didn't want to blame his struggles only on bad luck, but he said he's feeling fine physically and hasn't been plagued by a lack of command.

"I feel great," Jepsen said. "It's just more frustrating than anything. If I was going up there walking guys or getting hit around the yard, you'd have to go back to the drawing board. Right now, it's been one hit. Harper hit a ball at his knees and hit it out to center field. And Nap hit one at his neck and hit it into the second deck. It's not like they were fastballs down the middle. But you know coming in that there's no room for error."

Harper's game-tying solo homer

Jepsen's velocity is nearly identical to last year, as his fastball is averaging 94.9 mph compared to 95.3 mph in 2015. His April velocity is also slightly up from last year, when his fastball averaged 94.7 mph the first month of the season.

"I think April being around 94-ish is where I usually am," Jepsen said. "Normally, as the season goes along, my velocity goes up. So it's just the first month, and I'm not worried."

Jepsen is the lone bullpen arm with extensive closing experience. He saved 15 games last year, including 10 with the Twins after being acquired from the Rays at the Trade Deadline. Molitor said right-handers Trevor May and Ryan Pressly are other options to close, but they're not under consideration right now.

"I don't have any other plans," Molitor said. "The other guys are doing fine. Trevor has had good outings and bad outings, while Pressly has been impressive all year. But my choice is, I'm sticking with Kevin."

Worth noting

• Third baseman Trevor Plouffe, on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 18 with a right intercostal strain, will begin a two-game rehab assignment with Class A Advanced Fort Myers on Saturday. He's on track to be activated once eligible on Tuesday in Houston.

• The Twins signed lefty Andrew Albers to a Minor League deal. Albers, 30, previously pitched with the Twins in 2013, posting a 4.05 ERA in 10 starts. He gives the Twins depth at Triple-A Rochester after they called up Jose Berrios, Tyler Duffey and Alex Meyer.

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for since 2011. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.