MINNEAPOLIS -- The struggles of the Twins' rotation in recent weeks haven't been limited to just one starting pitcher. But if there is one starter the Twins really are counting on to turn things around, it's Scott Baker.Baker will make his first start of the second half on Monday against the Indians. The Twins pushed Baker back to the end of the rotation after the right-hander received a cortisone injection to treat some tendinitis in his right elbow. "I feel much better," Baker said of getting the injection. "It's day and night the way I feel. I'll be anxious to see how Monday goes and how I'll recover. That will probably be the biggest thing. But as far as going out there and pitching goes, I'm definitely good to go." Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has said the club will stick with a 13-man pitching staff through the first turn of the rotation. It gives the club a long reliever in right-hander Jeff Manship in case anything happens, and that includes seeing how Baker pitches in his first start after receiving the cortisone injection. "I think the big one here is Bake," Gardenhire said. That's why we put him all the way back at the back and we'll just wait and see. An MRI showed nothing structurally wrong with Baker's elbow. And now that it's feeling better after the shot, Baker is looking forward to trying to deliver a much better second half following what was an up-and-down start to the year. Baker was 7-8 with a 4.87 ERA in 18 starts before the All-Star break. But the track record for the pitcher over the past few seasons has been to deliver much better results in the second half. In the past two seasons, Baker has combined to go 13-4 with a 3.35 ERA in the second half. That's after he had posted a 13-9 record with a 4.54 ERA before the All-Star break in those two seasons, including going 7-7 with a 5.42 ERA in the first half of 2009. And Baker is optimistic that he's capable of getting on a roll yet again. "I feel like even with the injury, I was getting really close to where I wanted to be mechanically as far as my pitches," Baker said. "I think you saw that in the last four innings of my last start in Toronto, when I finally realized that it's going to hurt and nothing is structurally wrong. I'm just going to have to deal with it. "Once I realized that and I wasn't trying to guide balls, I was just letting it fly. I started to throw the way I wanted to throw. And the fact that now I won't be dealing with any nagging things, it makes it that much better." Baker's strong performances in the second half have been a big reason why the Twins have surged in recent years. And the starter is well aware of how important it is for him to get things turned around as well. "We all know it starts with pitching and starting pitching," Baker said. "If we're going to win a bunch of games, it's going to start with us no doubt. We have to go out there and provide our team with a chance to win. I think that starts with me individually, too. "Pitching is contagious. You see it all the time, like the recent run by the White Sox, when every one of their guys was going out and giving their team a chance to win. There is no reason we shouldn't be able to do that too."
Pavano and Butera enjoy working together
MINNEAPOLIS -- Carl Pavano and Drew Butera sat side by side on the bench Friday night as the Twins took on the White Sox.Pavano was scheduled to pitch the next day and Butera was going to catch, so the veteran pitcher talked with his teammate about the next night's game. The right-hander tends to talk with his catcher the night before he pitches simply to get an idea of what the two parties expect of each other, considering there isn't a lot of time to do that during the game. And Butera doesn't mind that one bit. "I just like talking and he was really knowledgeable about picking up things on other hitters," Butera said of Pavano. "What better way for me to get to know these guys than to sit next to him and talk to him, learn what they have to do. He's great at picking up things from other teammates and other guys we play. So for me, it was more of a learning experience and for him as well." The duo has played together four times this season, and Pavano's last two wins -- including Saturday's 3-2 victory over the White Sox -- have been with Butera behind the plate. Pavano said he works well with Butera and is comfortable with him behind the plate. With that kind of relationship, manager Ron Gardenhire has no problem making the Pavano-Butera ticket becoming a more common one. "I don't mind that one," Gardenhire said. "I think Carl likes throwing to Drew and it gives me that day. I've been looking for that. The last two outings have been fantastic." With starting catcher Joe Mauer banged up, Gardenhire has been looking for spots when he can give him a game off or have him DH. That can be a more realistic search if Gardenhire simply puts Butera in the lineup every five days when Pavano takes the mound. It will give the Twins a chance to protect their starting catcher from further injuries or soreness and gets Butera in games more often. "I've talked to Mauer and he has no problem with it," Gardenhire said. "He likes to be able to get that day off DH-ing or off, so it's perfect. I'm not saying it will be an everyday thing, but if it works out it's great."
Condrey presented alternative to surgery
MINNEAPOLIS -- After telling manager Ron Gardenhire on Saturday that he thought he would have surgery on his arm, right-hander Clay Condrey was presented with another option.Condrey and the team doctors will decide sometime this week if the pitcher wants to have surgery or PRP (platelet rich plasma) injections to fix the strain in his right flexor muscle, which is located just below the elbow. The injections would be a minimally invasive way to fix his muscle tissues and it is an emerging treatment option. It combines cutting-edge technology with the body's natural ability to heal itself and has become an option for many athletes with similar injuries. Condrey has been out all season and has seen multiple doctors concerning his injury. Gardenhire said the decision of which route Condrey will go will be made soon.
Justin Morneau wasn't at the ballpark at all for the final three games of the White Sox series at Target Field this week. However, the first baseman is scheduled to see the Twins' trainers on Monday to see how his head injury is progressing. Morneau is eligible to come of the 15-day disabled list on July 23, but Monday will be his first examination in four days. Manager Ron Gardenhire said on Sunday that he didn't expect the first baseman to be back on the field for a week. ... Danny Valencia started at third for the second straight game on Sunday against the White Sox. Gardenhire said Valencia has been playing well for the Twins since being called up. It is still unclear if Valencia will remain on the 25-man roster once Matt Tolbert comes off the disabled list. Gardenhire said he doesn't want Valencia to sit on the bench while he is playing for the Twins, but added he hasn't decided what move he will make when Tolbert returns. ... Chris Parmelee was named the Twins' Minor League Player of the Week for July 10-16. The infielder for New Britain hit. 444 (8-for-18) with one double, three runs scored and four walks in five games.
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. Jocelyn Syrstad is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.