KANSAS CITY -- Despite the bullpen faltering in the Twins' 4-3 loss to the Orioles on Thursday, manager Ron Gardenhire said he still has confidence in his relievers.
But Gardenhire admitted it'll be tough for the bullpen to remain effective if they keep throwing so many innings. Entering Friday's game, Twins relievers ranked third in the Majors in innings pitched with 327 2/3.
"When you're going to them in the sixth inning every game and you need three or four innings every day, it's going to get out of a whack," Gardenhire said. "[Matt] Capps could've been part of that helping out in the seventh, eighth and ninth, but now he's out. So we expect other people to step up like [Alex] Burnett."
Burnett has been solid this year with a 3.15 ERA in 40 appearances, but was saddled with the loss on Thursday after walking two batters that eventually scored in the eighth inning.
Left-hander Glen Perkins was unavailable while right-hander Jared Burton was lined up to be closer. Gardenhire said the fact that the club has 13 straight games out of the All-Star break hasn't helped matters.
"It just eats you up because you don't get that break," Gardenhire said. "It's kind of crazy coming out of the All-Star break where you have four days off and then immediately out of the break we threw 27 innings, and  were from the bullpen the first three games. You think they get rested, but then you're back at it again. So we're doing the best we can."
Plouffe isn't concerned with his bruised thumb
KANSAS CITY -- Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe left Friday's game against the Royals after eight innings with a bruised right thumb. He's considered day to day.
Plouffe injured his thumb during his third at-bat of the game in the seventh inning. He was jammed on an inside pitch from Royals right-hander Luke Hochevar and lined the ball back to the mound.
Plouffe was lifted in the ninth for pinch-hitter Brian Dozier, who struck out against reliever Greg Holland. Plouffe tried taking a few swings in the on-deck circle, but he couldn't feel anything in his thumb.
Plouffe, though, said the injury isn't serious and is something he's dealt without throughout his career, including most of this season.
"It's all right," Plouffe said. "It's something that's been kinda going on all year. Just some tenderness in the thumb area from letting the ball get deep. I've been playing with it all year, but tonight it just was more direct. Basically I just got jammed really good."
Plouffe said he expects he'll only need to miss one game, while manager Ron Gardenhire said they'll continue to monitor the situation this weekend.
"We've all done that as a hitter -- you get a deep bone bruise right in there and it's pretty painful." Gardenhire said. "So we'll give him a day or two with a little ice and treatment, and he should be back in there."
Dozier moved to shortstop for the bottom of the inning with Jamey Carroll moving from shortstop to third base.
Twins mindful with Morneau on paternity alert
KANSAS CITY -- Justin Morneau is expected to be placed on the paternity list to attend the birth of his second child with his wife, Krista, but was still in the lineup against the Royals on Friday.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he opted to start Morneau at designated hitter in case he needed to leave Friday's game early.
"We're kind of on alert with that," Gardenhire said. "It's right at the due date now."
Once Morneau is placed on the paternity list, he has a maximum of three days to be away from the team.
Gardenhire said a player from Triple-A Rochester will be recalled to take Morneau's place on the roster once he is placed on the paternity list. First baseman Chris Parmelee is the most likely player to be recalled.
Gardy sits Span, Dozier against Hochevar
KANSAS CITY -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire went by the numbers on Friday, as he sat center fielder Denard Span and shortstop Brian Dozier against Royals right-hander Luke Hochevar.
Span is a career .136 hitter (3-for-22) against Hochevar, so Gardenhire opted to start Ben Revere in center, as he's hitting .308 (4-for-13) against the right-hander.
"I think Span has scuffled against the guy a little bit," Gardenhire said.
Dozier had never faced Hochevar, but both second baseman Alexi Casilla (8-for-20) and shortstop Jamey Carroll (6-for-10) have had success against the Kansas City pitcher.