MINNEAPOLIS -- There is no denying Minnesota's starting pitching has struggled this year. As a result of this year's struggles, next year's staff could have a different look to it.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said there are no guarantees in the starting rotation as the Twins look to get back on track in 2011. He also said he won't hesitate to make changes to his starting pitching heading into next year.
"We like our starting pitching, but I am not afraid to move somebody to the bullpen from the starting rotation if we find somebody else," Gardenhire said.
The only 2010 Minnesota starter with more than five starts and an ERA under 4.50 this season is Scott Baker, who has compiled an ERA of 3.21. Baker is also the only Twins starter with a winning record.
Gardenhire said two current starters, Brian Duensing and Nick Blackburn, could transition well to the bullpen if the Twins make changes to their starting rotation.
"Duensing's got enough ability to go to the bullpen and make our bullpen better. Blacky could do it with that sinker ball," said Gardenhire.
Two in-house options for the Twins to fill rotation spots next year are Anthony Swarzak and, to a lesser extent, Twins top pitching prospect Kyle Gibson. Earlier this month, Gibson was sent to Fort Myers, Fla., to rehab a partial ligament tear in his right elbow.
If Gibson could've avoided injury, there was a good chance he would've made his Major League debut this season, but now he could be facing Tommy John surgery if his elbow does not respond to rehab.
"We had a guy who got hurt who I think we were definitely going to get a look at, but that's not going to be an option," Gardenhire said.
Swarzak has been a reliable spot starter and long-relief option for the Twins this season, which has opened his manager's eyes.
"I like Swarzak. I like the way he throws the ball. He's been very valuable," said Gardenhire. "I am not afraid to give him starts. He is another guy who will be in that mix in Spring Training."
Swarzak has compiled a 3-3 record with an ERA of 3.25 and has made five starts this season.
Other options for next year's rotation could come in trades or through free-agent signings, but that will be left up to general manager Bill Smith.
"It depends on what [the front office does] over the winter. That will tell me what I am going to do with my rotation," Gardenhire said.
Cuddyer could be available off bench Sunday
MINNEAPOLIS -- Michael Cuddyer missed his eighth straight game Saturday, but he could be available off the bench as early as Sunday if pregame workouts go according to plan.
The good news is that Cuddyer is feeling much better after receiving a cortisone injection in his neck Thursday to relieve pain he sustained after a round of batting practice Aug. 12. Cuddyer was diagnosed with a herniated disc in his neck.
"He felt great today. He still has a little stiffness, but we'll see tomorrow," manager Ron Gardenhire said before Saturday's game. "The last time he did a bunch of swinging, the next day he came in it was real bad again."
Gardenhire said it is unlikely that Cuddyer would start Sunday, but could enter the game off the bench and should be ready for the starting lineup Monday when Minnesota plays host to the Baltimore Orioles. Cuddyer's availability will depend on how he performs Sunday in pregame workouts.
"[Sunday] we are getting Michael and a few other boys out on the field around 11 a.m. Cuddy is going to take some swings tomorrow, and if everything goes good, he will be available [in the series finale] and then definitely play by Monday," Gardenhire said.
The Twins could use Cuddyer's bat back in the lineup. In three of the seven games since Cuddyer's absence, the Twins have scored just one run.
Nishioka out with back spasms
MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka was a late scratch for Saturday's game with the Yankees due to back spasms. Nishioka's exit from the lineup was reported about an hour prior to game time.
The Twins weren't the only ones shorthanded Saturday: so was the umpire crew. Less than a half-hour prior to game time, second-base umpire and crew chief Brian O'Nora was scratched due to a "personal medical matter." The remaining umpire crew of D.J. Reyburn, Ron Kulpa and Jim Wolf had to work the game as a three-man crew.
Jim Thome was held out of Friday's game with New York due to back and neck pain, which limited his ability to swing a bat.
"Yesterday he couldn't swing. It was something in his back or neck," manager Ron Gardenhire said prior to the game.
Gardenhire said Thome was feeling better and would be available to pinch-hit off the bench.
Joe Kieser is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.