BOSTON -- When Brandon Kintzler signed a Minor League deal with the Twins in December, he never imagined he'd be the closer at any point this season.
Kintzler was just looking for a team to give him a shot to prove he was healthy after undergoing knee surgery after the 2014 season and spending time last season rehabbing the injury. Kintzler, who pitched with the Brewers from 2010-15, has proved he's healthy and much more, as he's been a pleasant surprise with a 2.05 ERA and converting all eight of his save opportunities, including a 1-2-3 ninth in Saturday's 11-9 victory over the Red Sox.
"I never thought it would happen," Kintzler said of being the closer. "I was just trying to revive my career, really. The opportunity presented itself and I took advantage of it. I tried to tell teams that if I were healthy, I'd be good, but no one believed me besides the Twins."
Kintzler's success is largely tied to his sinker, as he had a 62.4 percent ground-ball rate that ranked as the eighth-highest rate in the Majors entering Saturday. His average fastball velocity of 92.8 mph is also 2 mph faster than last year, and his highest average velocity since 2011. Kintzler, who doesn't fit the profile of a ground-ball machine considering he's 6 feet tall, said he's able to get the downward plane on his two-seamer because of the way he delivers the ball.
"With my legs, when I land, I really drive that pitch," Kintzler said. "A lot of other guys kind of just throw the two-seamer, but I try to drive it down to increase that late movement. Some guys, their two-seamers kind of just run, but I try to get mine down."
Twins manager Paul Molitor has been impressed by Kintzler, who has been serving as closer since early June with Glen Perkins on the disabled list and Kevin Jepsen struggling at the time.
"He's a guy who can pretty much rely on being a one-pitch pitcher to get out of jams," Molitor said. "He throws it over and he can get ground balls. He can escape situations because of his ability to get the ball on the ground."
So while Kintzler didn't receive much interest from other teams in the offseason, his name has come up as a trade candidate leading up to the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Kintzler said his preference is not to be traded, and admitted it's strange hearing his name mentioned as a trade possibility.
"It obviously crosses your mind, and my name has never been out there in a trade," Kintzler said. "Teams could've had me for nothing in the offseason. So if it happens, it happens. But if I think about it every day, you're going to lose focus, especially with the job I'm in. But I like it here. They gave me an opportunity."