FORT MYERS, Fla. — It’s been about as well-documented as a ballplayer’s backstory could be: Randy Dobnak was once an Uber driver because life in the minor leagues is hard and the salaries are low.
It’s safe to say Dobnak’s Uber days are well, well behind him — so long as he wants them to be, at least. Dobnak and the Twins agreed to a five-year deal on Sunday worth $9.25 million, a source confirmed, with three club options that could take the deal closer to $30 million. The deal is pending a physical and is expected to be announced later this week.
Since his debut, Dobnak’s path has made him an easy player for whom to root. Dobnak went undrafted out of Alderson Broaddus University, a Division II school in West Virginia. The Twins found him while he was pitching for the Utica Unicorns of the United Shore Professional Baseball League, a little-known independent league in Michigan.
They saw enough to offer him a minor league contract in 2017, and from there, he advanced through the Twins system. In 2019 alone, he went from Class-A Advanced Fort Myers to Double-A Pensacola to Triple-A Rochester to the majors within a span of months.
The day the Twins clinched the American League Central that year, Dobnak was on the bump. He gave up just one run on one hit in six innings in that game. Days later, he returned home during the last weekend of the season to get married.
Dobnak’s rise through the system was so meteoric that when he and his now-wife Aerial set their wedding date, they hadn’t even considered that he might be in the majors at that point. Days after his wedding, he was on the mound for Game 2 of the American League Division Series at Yankee Stadium.
“I think this (has) definitely got to be easily one of the wildest weeks of my life,” he said at the time.
Since that point, Dobnak has done everything the Twins have asked of him and more. In parts of two seasons, he’s posted a 3.12 earned-run average and has proven adept at moving between the the rotation and the bullpen.
“Randy’s made a lot happen in a very short period of time,” manager Rocco Baldelli said Sunday. “And every way you look at it, he’s set up to continue to have success at the major league level. It’s incredible and it’s kind of beautiful at the same time.”
The Twins announced earlier this week that Dobnak had secured a spot on Opening Day roster and would start the season out of the bullpen, though the likelihood is high that at some point, he’ll get some starts throughout the season. The deal should lock him into the Twins rotation in the future, one that is set to lose Michael Pineda, J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker to free agency after this season.
Dobnak has been tinkering with his slider this spring, altering his hand positioning to create more break, to good results. In 13 2/3 innings, he has a 0.66 ERA and has struck out 18.
Clearly it’s impressed his bosses.
“If you like guys that just simplify things very easily, go out there, pitch really good, not get distracted in any way, keep a great routine and do everything the way you would want to see it, you would think of Randy Dobnak as one of those guys,” Baldelli said. “How he figured all that out and how to prepare and how to get here and how to manipulate the ball the way he does, he does it all and he does it with a smile and he’s so low maintenance of a human being. He just wants the ball and he just wants to pitch and he’s willing and able to do pretty much anything to help us win games. We appreciate him very much.”