Lance Lynn is done with April.
Fortunately for him, the calendar turned to May an hour and a half after his last outing — a five-inning, seven-hit, six-run affair where he walked five Toronto Blue Jays hitters, struck four out and gave up two home runs, leaving the Minnesota Twins in a 5-0 hole they could not recover from as he left the mound.
“They’re frustrating,” Lynn said of the walks, which helped load the bases in both the second and third innings and ultimately led to another poor outing in the Twins’ 7-5 loss. “You think you’re making pitches in the heat of the moment and you back (and look) and they’re just off. You’ve just got to change your sights, change your frame of mind and move on.
“It has been the worst month of my career and I’m ready for it to be over. Good thing is we’re going to wake up tomorrow and it’s May, so we’ll be alright.”
Lynn is 0-3 in five starts this April. He owns a 8.37 ERA, has walked about as many hitters (23) as he’s struck out (26) and has repeatedly said that this is the worst start of a season in his career.
“He’s still having a little trouble with his command,” said Molitor. “You can tell by his pitches and the walks that are creating a lot of opportunities. He made some good pitches at times to minimize, but we obviously didn’t make some plays and that showed up in tonight’s game.”
Multiple snow outs, a trip to Puerto Rico and back and a few flukey plays — including a borderline foul ball along the third base line that was called fair after catcher Mitch Garver picked it up — have skirted his efforts to get back on the right track.
But Lynn hasn’t resorted to excuses, continually blaming himself for his poor outings while maintaining a calm demeanor. He will even allow a smile every once and a while after cracking a self-deprecating joke.
“When it’s all said and done, I’ve made much worse pitches in my career and got outs with them,” he said. “That’s just the way the game goes sometimes.”
Make no mistake: he’s upset with himself. In seven years with the St. Louis Cardinals, he made 165 starts, nearly threw 1,000 innings (996.1) owns a 3.46 ERA, was part of a World Series-winning team his rookie year and made an All-Star appearance in his second.
He has played well below his standards in his first month with the Twins.
“I think it’s high. He expects a lot from himself,” said manager Paul Molitor when asked about Lynn’s frustration levels.
“I thought the first inning might be something but it kind of regressed there at times. I’m not going to doubt that he’s going to keep getting after it and find a way to start getting going in the right direction.”
Lynn only needed eight pitches to get out of the first inning. He joked that he was thinking complete-game shutout at that point, “but then it didn’t happen.”
“I’m going to be alright,” insists Lynn. “I’ve just got to be me and attack hitters and make pitches. I’ve got the ability to do that. I’ve showed that over the course of my career, and now I’ve just got to go do it.”
Garver, who caught Lynn on Monday, says that the pitcher can lean on his six years of experience in the major leagues, which have been largely successful, to pull himself out of this slump.
“I’m not worried about him. I’m not,” said Garver, a 27-year-old rookie. “He’s got a lot of time in this game, he knows what he needs to do, we all have confidence in him. We put our trust in him. He’s one of our guys.”
A common theme in the Twins clubhouse is that if they get into the rhythm of a regular schedule — one in which games aren’t canceled due to snow, for instance — they’ll start to hit their stride. So turning over the calendar to May isn’t just a mental exercise, but also has some pragmatic benefits.
“There’s a mix of bad luck, and kind of a messed-up schedule that we’ve been working with, days off and snow-outs,” says Garver. “Once we get into a routine, we all trust in Lance. He’s going to be fine.”
“We’re a good team and we’ve had some funky things happen with the first month of the season,” echoed Lynn after the Twins mounted a comeback, but ultimately lost to drop to 9-15 on the season. “I can speak for everyone, we’re ready for May to roll around and get weather where we can play every day.”