SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Nik Turley never considered it might be time to walk away from his major league dreams for good.
Nobody would have blamed him if he did, given his long, “bumpy” baseball journey that included 2016 stints in the Dominican Winter League and independent ball.
“I never thought that was it,” he said matter-of-factly while settling into his space in the Twins clubhouse Saturday.
It will be Turley’s time at last on Sunday, his major league debut for Minnesota at age 27 and in his 10th professional season — right at home in his native California, too.
While he would be thrilled to be pitching in any ballpark for this long-awaited moment, this is about as ideal a scenario as he could have scripted. And he has a chance to help the Twins to a three-game sweep.
“That’s everyone’s goal that picks up a baseball and a mitt when they’re a kid,” Turley said. “The journey, it’s been a long one, it feels like, it’s been pretty bumpy, too. It’s special, everything about it. I wouldn’t change too much about it. I just believed in myself.”
The big left-hander and former 50th-round draft pick by the Yankees will face his former San Francisco organization with family and friends flying in to watch him pitch at AT&T Park. Turley was signed as a minor league free agent last October and has pitched between Triple-A and Double-A this season, going 1-3 with a 2.05 ERA over 12 outings with 84 strikeouts and 15 walks.
Turley’s parents were set to fly in from the Los Angeles area for what is expected to be more than a one-start stay in the big leagues.
“I think everybody that’s around the game enjoys those stories when they come up,” Minnesota manager Paul Molitor said. “For a guy to be drafted in a round that is now non-existent and to find his way onto a map with a couple of clubs, including 40-man stints, and then having to go through some things and fight his way back through independent ball, it was a good find for us, obviously.”
The Twins discussed depth way back in spring training and Molitor had the chance to say a quick hello to Turley then. Yet the manager noted, “I don’t think he was really on anybody’s radar at that point, but he put himself in a position by going out there and doing what he needs to do.”
Molitor planned to talk to Turley and remind him not to put added pressure on himself, mentioning “the old Hoosiers moment,” a reference to the basketball movie about a small-town Indiana team winning the state basketball championship.
Giants starter Jeff Samardzija, who took a 3-2 loss to Minnesota on Saturday, credited Turley’s perseverance.
“That’s really impressive. Resiliency in this game is a very important attribute and I think as long as you know and have confidence in yourself that you have the skills to do it and you just need the time and need the practice, a lot of time these guys go and play a handful of years in the minor leagues or independent ball and something clicks,” Samardzija said. “That’s why this game’s such a great game. It just takes a little bit of confidence and a little adjustment here or there and you can see a guy’s career take off.”
Turley understood why he didn’t get his chance to come up with the Giants in 2015, when he pitched at Triple-A Sacramento and Class A San Jose. He still knows some players with San Francisco and has fond memories of that year, his first time pitching in his home state since high school.
“Their rotation was pretty stacked,” Turley said. “They had a whole lot of talent. We had a lot of good players on our team, too. The opportunities didn’t happen. Sometimes that happens.”
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