Notes: Offense cooling down
Gardenhire attributes Twins' lack of timely hitting to matchups
MINNEAPOLIS -- Offense was the least of the Twins' concerns this spring. The club felt strongly about returning almost its entire lineup from the '06 season, when it led the American League in hitting.Yet it's been a lack of offense over the team's past three games that has started to raise some eyebrows. After hitting .313 in their first series of the year against the Orioles, the Twins batted just .163 in a three-game stretch entering Tuesday night. That included two contests at Chicago and Monday's game against the Yankees. Many of the Twins' troubles in the recent rough stretch have come with runners in scoring position. The club is just 3-for-19 (.158) in such situations in the three-game span. Last season, it ranked second in the Majors with a .298 average. As for what exactly has been the difference in the offense, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire felt that much of it had to do with the type of pitching the club has faced recently. Though the club was able to score runs off some typically difficult Orioles pitchers in Erik Bedard and Daniel Cabrera, the Twins have struggled to do the same recently against pitchers like the White Sox Javier Vazquez and the Yankees' Carl Pavano. "Pitching has a tendency to put you into a little funk at times," Gardenhire said. "We don't think we're in a funk; it's just good pitching we've faced." It's clear that the offensive prowess that many expected from the Twins hasn't exactly been demonstrated yet. The club has averaged just 3.7 runs over its first six games, and the lineup has hit only three home runs, with only the A's and the Giants delivering fewer. But Gardenhire didn't want to read too much into the stats. "To say you are going to go out there and score 8-10 runs a night, it's not going to happen," Gardenhire said. "Not very many teams can do that, except for maybe the Yankees. They've got a big, powerful offensive lineup up and down. We feel eventually we'll get there, too, once we get guys swinging a little better. "We're not quite as panicked as some people. We just have to start hitting better as a group. Do that, and cut out some of the mistakes that happen early in the season, when guys are trying to do a little too much." Early concern? One player in particular who seems to be scuffling offensively is shortstop Jason Bartlett. Bartlett has gone hitless in his last 11 at-bats and is batting just .056 (1-for-18) on the season. The problems have seemed to extend into Bartlett's defense, as he's recorded three errors in his first six games. Last year, he didn't record that many errors until his 32nd game. With Bartlett having taken just 18 at-bats so far this year, Gardenhire didn't want to press the panic button on his shortstop just yet. After all, Bartlett was one of the more consistent hitters for the club after being called up last June, batting .309 (103-for-333) over 99 games. The skipper said that Bartlett has been battling through a sore groin as well. "I'm more worried about his legs more than anything else," Gardenhire said. "He's a little sore in the legs. The turf can do that, and the cold weather. But Bartlett's a good baseball player. He's hit some balls hard, and they'll start falling for him." With the little bit of soreness that Bartlett has been experiencing in his groin, he will likely get a rest at some point during the week -- possibly during Wednesday's game. The Twins have Alexi Casilla as a backup option at shortstop, and they seem dedicated to giving the young infielder playing time while he's up with the club. So with five more Twins home games this week, Casilla will likely get a start at shortstop for one of them. Mix and match: The Twins' situation in left field has become more of an unknown now that Rondell White will miss at least 10 days after being placed on the disabled list retroactive to April 5. The Twins have at least three players who will see time in left field in Jason Tyner, Jason Kubel and Josh Rabe, who got the call on Monday night, when White was officially placed on the DL. Gardenhire said that he's not leaning toward using one player more than another, though it was Rabe who was slotted in the spot on Tuesday night against left-hander Andy Pettitte. "We'll just mix guys around and play them the best we can right now without Rondell," Gardenhire said. "They'll all play out there. We need all of them need to play the outfield and give us different looks off the bench." Homer happy: The home run that Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez hit in Monday's game against the Twins put him in the record books. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the long ball made Rodriguez the first player in franchise history to record five home runs in the team's first six games of a season. For the final two games of the series, the Twins will start two pitchers who have had a penchant for giving up home runs. Gardenhire was asked if he was concerned at all about the prospect of giving Rodriguez more opportunities to hit the long ball. "I think the league has home run tendencies when you're facing A-Rod," Gardenhire said. "No matter what you say or don't say about A-Rod, I always thought that he was probably one of the best, if not the best, player in the league. And for him to hit home runs doesn't surprise me. He's always had one of the best swings in the game. He's going to hit some home runs. The key is not to have too many men on base when he does." Down on the farm: Left-hander Glen Perkins allowed just one run on two hits over six innings in Triple-A Rochester's 8-1 loss on Monday. The Red Wings' only run came on a leadoff home run in the sixth inning by Rabe. ... Second baseman Luke Hughes went 3-for-3 with two RBIs and two runs scored as Double-A New Britain defeated Portland, 8-6. Left-hander Brian Duensing pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing four hits and striking out three. ... Right-hander Jay Rainville picked up his second loss of the year as Class A Fort Myers lost to Sarasota, 4-3. Rainville gave up four runs, three earned, on seven hits over 3 1/3 innings to bring his season ERA to 6.75. ... Chris Parmelee went 1-for-3 with one RBI and three runs scored as Class A Beloit won at Kane County, 5-4. Parmelee walked twice and struck out once. Twins tidbits: Jeff Cirillo will undergo arthroscopic surgery on his left knee on Wednesday morning. He's expected to miss between three and six weeks. ... Mike Redmond got his third straight start at designated hitter on Tuesday. ... The Twins already have nine infield hits this season, and they are tied with Toronto for the most in the Majors. Luis Castillo has six of those nine, leading the Majors. Coming up: The Twins will close out their series with the Yankees on Wednesday in a 7:10 p.m. CT contest. Right-hander Ramon Ortiz (1-0, 2.57 ERA) will make his second start for the Twins and face Yankees right-hander Mike Mussina (0-1, 13.50 ERA).
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.