MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire won't discuss a potential postseason rotation or a playoff roster until his team officially clinches the American League Central title.
But he has indicated that his team will likely use a four-man rotation if it gets to the playoffs, meaning that at least one of the Twins' starting pitchers could possibly be pitching out of the bullpen in the postseason.Francisco Liriano, Carl Pavano and Brian Duensing appear to be locks for three starting spots, and right-hander Nick Blackburn, who is 2-2 with a 1.91 ERA in his five starts since returning from Triple-A Rochester, looks to be the leading candidate for the fourth spot. Right-handers Kevin Slowey and Scott Baker could also factor into the mix for that fourth starting spot. Baker is set to start Tuesday, which will be the first time he has pitched since Sept. 2, when he was sidelined for a second time this season with elbow tendinitis.
Slowey is going to make one more start, likely next Tuesday at Kansas City, and then Gardenhire said he could be used out of the bullpen down the stretch.There has been talk of having Slowey available out of the 'pen this week since he won't pitch for another seven days, but Gardenhire said that Slowey is scheduled to throw two side sessions before his next start, making that possibility unlikely. But Gardenhire said the Twins would have to be cautious if they use either Slowey or Baker to pitch out of the bullpen. "Both of these guys have had elbow [issues]," Gardenhire said. "You have to be careful not to rush those guys and get them ready out there. I think if either one of them are in the 'pen, or both of them are in the 'pen, I think you would want them to start their own inning and give them plenty of time to warm up. Gardenhire was asked if it's tough for starters to move to a relief role. "It's an adjustment for some of the guys to handle it," he said. "I think Slowey would be a guy that could warm up a little quicker than, say, a Baker or somebody like that. [Brian] Duensing had to learn that, but once he did, he was fine." The Twins will likely carry 11 pitchers for the playoffs, which would mean a seven-man bullpen.
Gardenhire not worried, but Mauer getting MRI
MINNEAPOLIS -- Joe Mauer was not in the lineup for Monday's series opener with the Indians due to his jammed left knee, but Twins manager Ron Gardenhire stressed that he's been given no reason to be seriously concerned about the injury.Mauer injured his knee while swinging in the sixth inning of Sunday's 6-2 loss to the A's, and left the game after it started to get worse while he ran up the first-base line. Mauer was getting treatment on the knee before Monday's game, and Gardenhire said that the catcher remains day-to-day. "They told me he tweaked it," Gardenhire said. "The doctors checked him out -- there was no fluid, no anything. When they tell me I should be concerned, I will be, and [Sunday] night they told me he tweaked it and it should be fine." Gardenhire said after Monday's 9-3 victory over the Indians that Mauer's knee was still a little sore. There is no swelling and no change in Mauer's knee, but the team planned to have the catcher get an MRI on Tuesday as a precaution. "They don't expect [to find] anything, but we're going to get it checked out," Gardenhire said.
Kubel could return to lineup by Tuesday
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins could be getting Jason Kubel back in the lineup as early as Tuesday. Kubel, who has missed four games with a sore left wrist, was swinging well during batting practice before Monday's 9-3 win against the Indians, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said."He's chomping at the bit to get going, but we also want to make sure he's good and healthy," Gardenhire said. "He looked like he was swinging good in BP, and I talked to him after that." The Twins also got center fielder Denard Span back in the lineup on Monday after he missed three games with a sore right shoulder, which he injured while diving for a ball on Thursday night in Chicago. With the Twins closing in on the American League Central title as their magic number sat at four entering Monday, Gardenhire was asked if it was more important to rest his players over the final two weeks of the season or to continue to push for the best record in the AL, which would get them home-field advantage in the first two rounds of the playoffs. "We just want to win our division and go from there," Gardenhire said. "I think we've mentioned this before, you want both. You want to be healthy and you'd love home field. You have to keep playing. You can't just stop playing and coast in [to the postseason]. "You have to be playing good baseball by the time the playoffs get here. I've been there before and we've seen it. You want to stay on a roll and keep guys sharp. You want to make sure you're healthy, too. Home-field advantage is huge. We'd love to have it."
Twins designated hitter Jim Thome will grace the cover of this week's Sports Illustrated. ... The Twins, Rangers, Yankees and Rays all lost on Sunday. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the first time this season that all four likely American League Division Series participants lost on the same day. ... The Twins entered Monday having walked just 342 batters, the fewest in all of MLB.
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.