Ailing Twins stars recuperating in Detroit
Agility work for Mauer, rest for Thome; Liriano feeling better
DETROIT -- Since the Twins captured the American League Central crown on Tuesday, manager Ron Gardenhire has taken extra precautions with his players that are nursing bumps and bruises. The same stayed true on Saturday.
Gardenhire said on Friday that catcher Joe Mauer wouldn't play during the series in Detroit, as he's recovering from an injured knee he suffered on Sunday. Mauer received a cortisone shot on Wednesday and did agility work with strength and conditioning coach Perry Castellano on Saturday at Comerica Park.
"He's feeling better," Gardenhire said. "He's out doing some little stuff out there with Perry today. He's getting some light jumping and running and moving around. But he's definitely feeling better."
Jim Thome was kept out of the lineup again on Saturday night. He was experiencing back tightness, and Gardenhire said there was no reason rushing him back into the lineup, especially with Saturday being a chilly night in Detroit.
"There's just no sense in it right now," Gardenhire said. "He should be fine. As he told me yesterday, he can go play through these things if he has to. But we really don't have to right now. I want to make sure we are OK. I think once you get to the postseason, we throw a lot of things out the window. The boys are going to play. But right now, we can be smart with something like this. He's feeling it, so you give him another day."
Starter Francisco Liriano, who exited in the fourth inning on Friday with a non-baseball related illness, said he was feeling much better on Saturday afternoon. Before the game, he was seen running the stairs at Comerica Park, which is his usual post-start routine.
Liriano said he was feeling lightheaded and dizzy during his outing. He believed that may have been because he was unable to eat in the days leading up to his start. However, the lefty said he was able to eat on Saturday and felt much better -- a good sign for the Twins, as they've named him the starter for Game 1 of the AL Division Series.
"I'm feeling much better today," Liriano said. "I've never felt like that before. But it feels better today."
Repko sustains thumb contusion
DETROIT -- Twins right fielder Jason Repko exited Saturday's 11-10 loss to the Tigers in the fifth inning with a right thumb contusion.
He was hit by a pitch that came up and in from Tigers reliever Eddie Bonine on an 0-2 count. Repko remained in the game to run the bases, but exited at the end of the inning.
X-rays came back negative and Repko was listed as day-to-day.
"He was sore," said third-base coach Scott Ullger, who filled in for Ron Gardenhire after the skipper was accidentally hit by a ball during batting practice.
"He was sore enough to come out of the game and get it checked."
Twins reliever Glen Perkins entered the game in the bottom of the fifth inning and hit Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge with the first pitch he delivered. It came minutes after Repko was hit by the pitch.
Both benches were warned by home-plate umpire Bob Davidson and no other incidents occurred.
Span relishes at-bats against Tigers
DETROIT -- Denard Span isn't able to put his finger on it, but for one reason or another, he mashes against the Tigers.
Span has more hits against the Tigers (69) since he came into the league in 2008 than any other player in that stretch, according to STATS. In 47 career games against Detroit entering Saturday, Span has hit safely in 34 of them, posing a career average of .365 (69-for-189) with seven doubles and eight triples. He's hitting .388 (33-for-38) at Comerica Park, too.
The Twins outfielder singled to lead off the game Saturday.
"I think every individual player has one team that they seem to just play a little bit better against," Span said. "It seems like Detroit is the team that I decide to show up more so than other teams. I definitely like hitting here. It's a fast infield. You almost feel like you are playing on turf. The ball gets through the infield pretty quick. It seems like I've just caught some extra breaks here."
On Friday, he went 2-for-4 against Tigers ace Justin Verlander, who nearly threw a shutout and appeared to have some of his best stuff of the season. It marked Span's 20th career multi-hit game against the Tigers.
"Inside your division is going to be where you are going to get the most at-bats," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It can work both ways. A staff can own you and just wear you out, or you can actually feel really good against them and go the other way. I think it changes over the years. You see so many pitchers and the pitchers move around. But inside your division, it bodes well for you to be able to figure out what's going on and hit a team well because you do play them so many times."
Although the Twins and Tigers have slugged it out the past couple seasons for the American League Central crown, Span still enjoys squaring off against his club's divisional foe.
"It's always a good thing to play good against a team in your division because we play them 18 times," Span said. "I'm never sad when I see Detroit on the schedule."
Bonderman earns Gardenhire's respect
DETROIT -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire still remembers that Tigers starter Jeremy Bonderman pegged Delmon Young in the last meeting between the two teams before Game 163 last season.
Bonderman received a three-game suspension for his actions, but the Twins skipper doesn't hold a grudge against the Tigers right-hander. Instead, he admires the way Bonderman sticks up for his teammates.
"He's a competitor," Gardenhire said. "You love that in a pitcher. We've been watching this guy for a long time. We've had a lot of good run-ins with him. He's a good team player. If you knock one of his players down, he's not afraid to buzz you inside. It's good seeing that part in him, too. He's respected. Even against us, you respect that. You protect your own players. We talk about that. This guy is one of those guys. He doesn't have to be told what to do."
With Bonderman being a free agent at the end of the season, Saturday's start may be his last home one at Comerica Park. The Twins have seen their fair share of Bonderman over the years, as he has been a Tiger since entering the big leagues eight years ago. Prior to Saturday, Bonderman owned a 5-6 record in 18 games (16 starts) with a 5.35 ERA against the Twins.
"He's game on," Gardenhire said. "We saw that a long time ago. It hasn't changed. He's game on -- even pitching through the injuries he's had and coming back from the surgeries. When you watch him out there on the mound, he's as competitive as anybody in the game. I always really enjoyed watching this guy compete."
Twins balancing relievers' rest, need to pitch
DETROIT -- With the playoffs rapidly approaching, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire is keeping a close eye on his bullpen. He doesn't want to overuse any of the staff, but he also wants to make sure none of his relievers sit too long.
Brian Fuentes, Matt Capps, Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier are all in the same boat for Gardenhire. None of the four pitched in Friday's 10-1 loss to the Tigers, and because the club had an off-day on Thursday, the skipper said he needs to make sure his relievers see some game action soon.
"You pick out your days," Gardenhire said. "They didn't throw last night and they had the day off, so we are thinking they are going to have to get in the ballgame, all of those guys. We want to keep them all sharp, to say the least. If you sit them for any length of time, they can get out of whack. They are all the same. Bullpen guys need to throw. That's what they do."
Jose Mijares is still vying for a spot in the bullpen when it's time for Gardenhire to set his 25-man playoff roster. On Friday, Gardenhire wanted to use the lefty to face only one hitter. Instead, Mijares tossed a full inning and retired all three hitters he faced, although Brennan Boesch tallied a sacrifice fly.
Mijares was sidelined with a lateral meniscus tear in his right knee from mid-August through mid-September. In his last appearance before Friday, Mijares was rocked for four hits and two earned runs in two-thirds of an inning against the Indians on Tuesday.
"[Pitching coach Rick Anderson] said he was still up a little bit, up in the zone," Gardenhire said of Mijares' Friday appearance. "He's just got to get the ball down and keep working on it. We are going to get him out there plenty of times."
Alex DiFilippo is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.