The Twins enter Monday's opener of a three-game series with the White Sox not in contention for the divisional crown or a playoff spot. Instead, Minnesota sits 17 1/2 games out of first place in the division and can play only one role in the Central race -- that of spoiler.
But manager Ron Gardenhire says the team isn't putting too much focus into ruining its opponents' playoff chances down the stretch. Instead, after losing 17 of the last 24 games, the club's attention centers more on ending the season with a positive note and establishing a foundation for next year.
"You will play and have an impact on [the divisional race]," Gardenhire said. "But that's not your No. 1 goal, is to have an impact on who wins. It's to really right yourself, finish off the season, at least have a little bit of a good feeling going into the winter.
"We all know we're not going to have a great feeling going into the winter because of our season, but we can sure make it a little bit easier by playing really good baseball in September."
Samuel Deduno appears poised to help the Twins do just that, at least in Monday's game, when he makes his 11th start of the season.
The right-hander is coming off the best outing of his career. He threw seven shutout innings against the Mariners, allowing just two hits while striking out a career-high nine batters. It was also Deduno's first career start in which he didn't allow a walk.
He had previously walked 37 batters in 58 innings.
"Today, the key was being aggressive," Deduno said after Minnesota's 10-0 victory on Wednesday. "Every time, with all my pitches -- fastball, changeup and everything."
Like Deduno, Chicago will send a pitcher to the mound who has spent his career as a reliever. Hector Santiago will make the start, manager Robin Ventura announced on Saturday.
Santiago is 2-1 this season with a 3.91 ERA in 36 appearances, but Monday will mark his first Major League start. He owns a 1.80 ERA in three games against the Twins.
"I hope he pitches well," Ventura said. "The kid throws strikes. He competes. He's done everything for us. Starting out as a closer and then kind of stretching out a little bit during the year, and now going down [to Triple-A Charlotte] and throwing a lot of innings to be starting, he's adapted.
"He's kind of a chameleon for us."
Twins: Walters to start on Wednesday
Recently activated from the 60-day disabled list, P.J. Walters will start for the Twins in Wednesday's series finale against Chicago. The right-hander has been on the DL since June 14 because of right shoulder inflammation. He went 3-3 with a 4.01 ERA in eight rehab starts for Triple-A Rochester.
"Well, now that he's healthy, we're just hoping he can pick up where he left off," Gardenhire said. "He didn't throw the ball great in Triple-A, but I think it was about building arm strength and all those things. Now, he's going to have to get back to locating and using his breaking ball."
Walters went 2-2 with a 5.40 ERA in seven starts for the Twins before falling to injury.
The additions of Esmerling Vasquez and Walters to Minnesota's rotation will send Brian Duensing back to the team's bullpen. Duensing is 1-2 with a 3.12 ERA this year as a reliever, but just 2-8 with a 6.92 ERA in 11 starts.
Gardenhire said the move has more to do with wanting to see different starters and less to do with Duensing's performance.
White Sox: De Aza activated
Alejandro De Aza was activated from the 15-day disabled list prior to Sunday's game against Detroit. He was placed on the DL on Aug. 21 -- retroactive to Aug. 18 -- because of bruised left ribs.
The outfielder hit .250 (5-for-20) with one home run and two RBIs over five games in a rehab assignment with Triple-A Charlotte. He didn't waste much time making his presence felt once again in the Chicago lineup, leading off Sunday's game with a home run off Justin Verlander.
The White Sox margin atop the American League Central has not been greater than three games during the team's current 40-day run in first place. After Sunday's loss to Detroit, they are tied with the Tigers atop the AL Central.
Chicago is 25-25 against AL Central foes and has dropped eight straight divisional games.
Chicago owns a 9-3 lead in the season series, outscoring the Twins 74-50 in those games. The White Sox need one more win against Minnesota to clinch only the team's second season series victory against the Twins in the last 12 years.
The Twins are nine games below .500 on the road this year (30-39), compared to 15 games under at home (25-40).