NEW YORK — Minnesota Twins rookie right-hander Randy Dobnak will start Game 2 of the American League Division Series on Saturday, the team announced after Friday’s 10-4 loss to the New York Yankees in Game 1.
The postseason is the latest high point in Dobnak’s meteoric rise to the majors. The 24-year-old spent this past offseason as an Uber driver, proudly boasting on his Twitter bio that he has a 4.99 rating. He started the season in Class A Fort Myers, moving through Double-A Pensacola and Triple-A Rochester before getting called up in August, when he tossed four scoreless innings in his major league debut.
Dobnak helped the Twins clinch the AL Central last week when he pitched six shutout innings in a 5-1 win over the Detroit Tigers.
“It’s been the greatest week of my life,” Dobnak said. “Got married, clinching the game and now a postseason start. I don’t think it’s going to get any better than this.”
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli cited Dobnak’s 52.9% ground ball rate as playing a large role in the decision to go with the rookie over veteran righty Jake Odorizzi, who had a 35% ground ball rate this season. In nine appearances this season, including five starts, Dobnak had posted a 1.59 ERA, striking out 23 batters in 28⅓ innings with a 1.13 WHIP.
“It’s a fine line. It was not an obvious move in any way,” Baldelli said. “I think in this ballpark, the guy that throws the ball, keeps it on the ground pretty well, was a good guy to look to. [Dobnak] has been throwing the ball great for us, so I thought it made sense.”
Dobnak’s unlikely rise started in 2017, when he went undrafted after graduating from Alderson Broaddus University, a small Division II school in West Virginia, with an accounting degree. He joined the United Shore Professional Baseball League, a four-team independent league in Michigan, planning to play for one season. A month later, the Twins signed him.
Now, just two years later, Dobnak will make his postseason debut at Yankees Stadium.
“I don’t know if it’s sunk in or if it ever will,” Dobnak said. “I’m really excited for all the opportunities that have come my way this year. Two years ago, getting the chance to play indie ball, just getting a chance to play indie ball, that’s something that a lot of people don’t get a chance to do. And I think everything that’s happened to me is something I never would have thought of.”
Dobnak does not plan on deviating from his routine on Saturday, despite the raised stakes.
“I’m going to be the same person I’m always going to be. That’s a very strange person,” Dobnak said. “But yeah, I’m going to keep doing what I’ve been doing.”