The Minnesota Twins, desperate for starting pitching due to injury and ineffectiveness, announced Thursday that they have added a JUGS Curveball Pitching Machine to their 40-man roster, and that it will make its Twins debut as the starter at Target Field on Sunday.
"We like to say 'next man up' around here," said Twins GM Terry Ryan. "Unfortunately, for one reason or another, the men weren't stepping up, so I guess it's 'next machine up,' if you will."
The machine can change speeds from 20 to 104 mph and, according to Twins broadcaster and legendary curveball pitcher Bert Blyleven, has an impressive curve of its own. "You notice that it just drops off the table as it moves through the strike zone," said the Hall of Famer. "JUGS doesn't get too far out in front of itself and maintains that downward plane, which is so important for a young machine."
The move, which some are calling unprecedented and, per Twins Daily's John Bonnes, a "harbinger of a bleak, dystopian, robot-led future that will see us all dead or enslaved," is being allowed by Major League Baseball after it was pointed out to Commissioner Bud Selig that the Pittsburgh Pirates have used a pitching machine as their fourth starter since 1998.
The machine retails for $2,199, but Ryan said that, with attendance down at Target Field, they purchased one off of the internet auction site eBay. "Honestly, we would have made this move last week, but we got sniped at the last minute on a really nice one by a 'HanShotFirst777.' We turned our attention to this one pretty quickly and were fortunate to get it at a reasonable price."
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he likes what he's seen from JUGS both on and off the field. "It just goes out there and handles its business, throws it over the plate, lets our guys make plays and gets them back in the dugout," said Gardenhire. "Juggy's been great in the clubhouse, too. We just load it up with Silver Bullets after the game and it'll fire 'em out nice and easy to the boys."
Ryan said no more moves are imminent, but if JUGS works out and another starter struggles or gets dinged up? "Well, I know Lew (Ford, former Twins outfielder) is still in touch with some of the guys here, and he swears he has a modified Roomba that can hit the upper '90s and miss bats. We have to keep our options open."
Matt Maloney was designated for assignment to make room for JUGS. Sources say he is re-evaluating his life choices.