Notes: Slowey heats up in September
Neshek suffers from fatigue; Buscher likely get extra practice
MINNEAPOLIS -- Lost in the wackiness of Monday night's bottom-of-the-ninth win over the Rangers was a solid performance by starter Kevin Slowey.
In his second start since being recalled from Triple-A, Slowey pitched six innings and gave up just one earned run on four hits. He fanned seven and did not allow a walk.
Slowey ran his pitch count up early in the game and struggled finishing batters off when he had two strikes on them. Manager Ron Gardenhire even had Boof Bonser warming up in the bullpen in the fifth inning.
But the 23-year-old battled through and got his first quality start since he was up with the club in June.
In the four appearances (two starts) since Slowey has been recalled, he has a 3.18 ERA and has struck out 16.
"He's a very young pitcher. It's all about making adjustments on the mound, getting the ball to where you need it and getting your arm angle up," Gardenhire said. "He's better than he was earlier in the season, already. He comes out and knows what he has to do. He knows his arm slot and he slows the ball down. He still has some balls out and over the plate and when he does, they're going to hit them. I think he sees that. It's a learning process, and he's going to get better and better."
Perhaps most importantly, Slowey did not allow a home run in Monday's game. He's allowed 16 on the season in just 54 innings. It was only his second outing of the season in which he did not allow a home run.
"You never want to give up home runs, but you're not out there trying to not give them up," Slowey said after the game. "Gardy and [pitching coach Rick Anderson] have been great and very patient with me in my first seven or eight starts. We've worked on that stuff, keeping the ball down, and letting your defense make plays for you."
Gardenhire said prior to Monday's game that it would be a challenge for Slowey, and that he was looking forward to seeing how he made adjustments. Slowey must have passed the challenge, as Gardenhire said Tuesday that Slowey will probably remain in the rotation for the remainder of the season, making his next start against the White Sox on Sept. 23.
The strong September could be just what Slowey needs to get a leg up on the fierce competition for the 2008 starting rotation. With Johan Santana being the only sure bet to make the rotation, Slowey, Bonser, Nick Blackburn, Brian Duensing, Carlos Silva, Glen Perkins, Francisco Liriano and Matt Garza will all be battling for the final four spots.
But Slowey isn't worried about Spring Training or next season. He's still focused on 2007.
"We're still trying to finish the season strong, I think that's the most important thing," Slowey said. "I think next year will take care of itself. If you start thinking about next year, that's when you start getting in some trouble."
Rest for the weary: After Tuesday's win against the Rangers, Gardenhire mentioned that the other members of the bullpen would need to step up because Pat Neshek will be unavailable for a few days.
Gardenhire said the righty is "arm weary" and fatigued, a condition that may be the result of him not keeping up with his strength and conditioning workouts.
"I think he's just a little worn down," Gardenhire said. "His arm exercises and all those strengthening programs, he kind of laid back on his tubes and didn't really get after them. I think it's just a little fatigue in the shoulder, a little arm weary more than anything else."
Gardenhire was unsure on how long of a break Neshek would need.
Neshek finished the first half with a 1.70 ERA over 42 1/3 innings pitched, but has a 4.82 ERA in 28 innings in the second half.
Room for improvement: Gardenhire said it's almost a sure thing that third baseman Brian Buscher will spend at least a week in instructional league working on his defensive skills.
Gardenhire, who penciled Luis Rodriguez in at third base for Tuesday's game, said it was not yet decided whether Buscher will go to Venezuela to play winter ball.
If Buscher does play winter ball, he would get a month off after instructional league and head down around Dec. 1, playing until the end of their season.
With sinkerball pitcher Silva on the mound Tuesday, Gardenhire said he would rather put the more sure-footed Rodriguez in the hot corner to protect both his pitcher and Buscher.
"With Silva throwing [Tuesday], sinkerball, that's one of the nights I put Luis out there because of the glove," Gardenhire explained. "A lot of ground balls go that way and I want to protect him as much as I can while he does all that work. I want him to get better. He's working very hard at it and he's trying a lot of different things, and that's what we're doing at instructional league."
Change of scenery: Although he didn't actually get into the game, Bonser saw his first action in the bullpen on Monday.
Bonser warmed up when Slowey was struggling early in the game, but sat down when Slowey regained control.
Gardenhire said he would like to use Bonser to start innings, rather than come in in the middle of innings, but he thinks Bonser could handle himself well either way.
As for Bonser's mental state after being relegated to relief, Gardenhire is not worried.
"I don't think he's jumping for joy, I think he'd rather be starting, we all know that," Gardenhire said. "But he's doing his work and he's going out to the bullpen like every other guy."
Redmond update: Mike Redmond saw hand specialist Dr. Tom Varecka Tuesday afternoon and was scheduled to undergo an MRI to examine the strained ligaments in his left middle finger.
Gardenhire had not heard from Redmond as of his session with the media prior to the game.
Countrymen: Detroit's Magglio Ordonez hit two singles on Monday to become the first Venezuelan-born player to reach 200 hits in a season since Minnesota's Cesar Tovar accomplished the feat in 1971.
Up next: The Twins finish off their series with the Rangers on Wednesday at 7:10 p.m. CT in the Metrodome. The Twins will face Vicente Padilla (6-9, 5.77), who is appealing a seven-game suspension, while Garza (3-6, 3.93) takes the mound for the Twins in search of his first win at the Metrodome.
Leslie Parker is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.