1-star start: Yanks shell Twins’ ex-driver rookie


Twins rookie Randy Dobnak, who drove for Uber to make extra cash while he played in the minors, was tagged by…

NEW YORK — Just too much traffic for Twins rookie Randy Dobnak.

The feel-good story of the Uber driver-turned-big league pitcher came to a screeching halt Saturday when the New York Yankees tagged him from the get-go in an 8-2 rout, putting Minnesota in a serious jam in the AL Division Series.

A week removed from his in-season wedding in Maryland, and with new bride Aerial in the stands, Dobnak soaked in the mocking, taunting cheers of “Uber, Uber” from the bleacher crowd at Yankee Stadium when he limbered up in the outfield before Game 2.

He looked loose, too, as he hopped over the third base line on the way to the mound. And with his Fu Manchu mustache, big glasses and red-shaded shoes, No. 68 certainly stood out before throwing a pitch, even to those who didn’t know his backstory.

Then, the Yankees geared up. Quickly, they drove Dobnak out of the game.

DJ LeMahieu sliced a leadoff double against Dobnak, and things didn’t improve much for the 24-year-old righty. He left with the bases loaded and no outs in the third inning, the start of a seven-run burst that made it 8-0.

His totals: two-plus innings, four runs on six hits and two walks without a strikeout. The Yankees didn’t chase his pitches out of the strike zone and swatted what they could reach.

Dobnak, who hadn’t pitched in 10 days, was a surprise choice over All-Star Jake Odorizzi (15-7, 3.51) to pitch a day after New York romped Minnesota 10-4 in the opener. His success at inducing grounders at homer-friendly Yankee Stadium helped give him the nod.

Twins manager Rocco Baldelli thought Dobnak’s demeanor would help, too.

“He’s about as unique a story as you’re going to find, and in a way, probably that whole story and everything that goes along with it is probably what’s made him who he is and what’s allowed him to take this journey and find his way to the big leagues,” Baldelli said.

Odorizzi, who will start Game 3 Monday in the best-of-five series, said he spent a lot of time with Dobnak on Friday, talking about facing the Yankees lineup and pitching in the Bronx. The veteran righty, like most of the Twins, knew little about Dobnak when the newcomer began his rapid rise this year.

“I had no idea his history was so vivid and kind of well explored, if you will,” he said.

Dobnak made his major league debut in August and kept excelling, going 2-1 with a 1.59 ERA in games, including five starts. Featuring a funky delivery, he struck out 23 and walked five in 28 1/3 innings.

It was a most unlikely ascent.

Undrafted after playing at Division II Alderson Broaddus University in West Virginia, he decided to give himself a chance at pro ball by playing for the Utica Unicorns of the little, independent United Shore Professional Baseball League. He signed with the Twins in the summer of 2017 and spent last year in Class A.

Dobnak began this season in Class A, climbed to Double-A and Triple-A, and eventually got the call from Minnesota.

Along the way, his lore grew. Trying to earn extra money while in the minors, he took a different road.

On Twitter, he proudly mentions his 4.99/5 Uber driver rating. In fact, the daily press notes distributed by the Twins list other aspects of his off-the-field resume: Lyft driver and pizza delivery. Along the way, more than two years ago, Dobnak and his future wife set the date for their wedding — Sept. 28, 2019. No way he imagined he’d be pitching for the AL Central champs back then.

Dobnak, nonetheless, got permission from Baldelli to attend his own wedding. His veteran Twins teammates had a requirement, though — since he was going to miss on the rookie dress-up custom on the team’s last flight, he had to wear the chosen costume. So Dobnak put on his purple Globo Gym outfit, right out of the “Dodgeball” movie, for the commercial flight to his wedding.

When Dobnak walked into the reception with 250 guests, he wore the same, oversized goggles he sported during the bubbly-soaked clubhouse celebration after Minnesota clinched the division crown earlier in the week. The maid of honor’s speech ended with “Go Twins!”

Too bad for Dobnak, there was no dodging the Yankees.

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