Wimmers promoted, makes successful MLB debut

No. 21 pick in 2010, who has overcome much, fans two in perfect inning

Wimmers promoted, makes successful MLB debut

TORONTO -- With his Minor League season winding down at Triple-A Rochester, Alex Wimmers was cleaning up his home in western New York last week when his wife urged him to take his passport with him for the Red Wings' upcoming eight-game road trip in fear of losing it.

Little did Wimmers realize how crucial the document would be.

On Friday, the Minnesota Twins selected the right-hander's contract to replace Jose Berrios, who was optioned following Thursday's loss vs. Detroit.

It's the first career callup for the 27-year-old Wimmers, who was selected in the first round of the 2010 Draft out of Ohio State. And he immediately made his Major League debut, fanning two and retiring the Blue Jays in order during the eighth inning of Minnesota's 15-8 loss

"We were leaving Norfolk, on our way, I was on a bus going to Scranton, so it was a half hour into the drive and Chad Allen was on the bus, our hitting coach. He got the call from our manager, and he ended up telling me in front of everybody. It was pretty cool," Wimmers said.

"When Chad asked me if I had my passport, I thought for a second, 'You know what? I do have my passport.'"

It's been a long road to the big leagues for Wimmers. Regarded as one of the best collegiate pitchers when drafted -- he was twice named the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year with the Buckeyes -- Wimmers started out well with Class A Advanced Fort Meyers, going 2-0 in four starts with a 0.57 ERA in 2010.

However, the following April, things went sideways. Wimmers struggled to find the strike zone and spent a bulk of the season attempting to shake a case of the yips.

In his first start of the 2012 season, Wimmers felt pain in his throwing elbow. Rest didn't help, so Wimmers underwent Tommy John surgery. Following a full year of recovery from the ligament replacement surgery, Wimmers suffered another setback in 2013 after six appearances in the Gulf Coast League, requiring a procedure to relieve the radial nerve in his elbow.

"I was down in the dumps -- I really was. It was a struggle in my life," Wimmers said from the visitors' clubhouse at Rogers Centre on Friday afternoon. "It was at the point that I thought I would possibly never play again, but I was able to find positives out of it all, take the failures that I had and grow from them.

"I was close [to leaving the game], but I was able to keep a positive mindset. I have the support of my wife and my family. Even my close friends gave me the support. Tommy John is not a guaranteed comeback, surgeries aren't guaranteed that you're going to 100 percent come back and play. At that moment, when you're going through that, you have to think, 'This might be it.'"

Despite being around the pro game for over six years, injuries have limited Wimmers to just 333 1/3 innings pitched. This season, the Cincinnati native was 2-2 with a 3.97 ERA and 11 saves in 45 relief appearances split between Double-A Chattanooga and Rochester.

"Coming into this year, [it] was the first full year that they said, 'Hey you're going to be strictly out of the bullpen.' [I] took that as a positive thing. It's a new position for me," Wimmers said. "Take it the best I can, you got to be different because with starting, you have five days, but with the bullpen, it's every other day or every day -- you've got to be ready to go, and I was able to take that on."

Wimmers' wife, 2-month-old daughter and 8-month-old dog have all made the trip north of the border with the hopes of seeing years of setbacks finally pay off.

Through it all, the 6-foot-2, 215-pounder -- who throws a cutter, changeup, curveball and fastball -- has garnered a better understanding of how to deal with the challenges of being a pro ball player.

"You've go to embrace failure, especially in this game," he said. "You're going to fail a lot. If you're going to take that failure and let it kill you, then it's going to bury you in this game. I was able to get some help and take all that failure that I had and turn it into positives. That's what you have to do."

Dhiren Mahiban is a contributor to MLB.com based in Toronto. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.