Twins bullpen starting to come together
Mijares' return a major boost to relief corps
MINNEAPOLIS -- When several members of the bullpen went down in Spring Training with injuries, the Twins were scrambling to find the right balance.Now, nearly two months into the season, it looks as though the bullpen is starting to come together. Jose Mijares is back on the 25-man roster and has had two good outings this week. He made appearances on both Thursday and Friday and allowed only one hit in that time. Manager Ron Gardenhire said this is what the Twins expected from Mijares all along. "We said that all along that we had to get him healthy and throwing the ball," Gardenhire said. "We lose [Joe] Nathan and then there's Mijares who's iffy and not being where he's supposed to be. That's two parts of your bullpen that aren't there. We got one piece back, and he's throwing the ball really well." Since the Twins can't use Mijares every night, they'll continue to turn to left-hander Brian Duensing in late-inning spots as well. Gardenhire said Duensing is special since he has the right combination of pitches to come into the game as a starter or out of the bullpen. The Twins have been trying to stretch him out, but aren't afraid to use him in short situations either. The Twins expect to use Duensing in Saturday's game since Mijares pitched in both of the past two games. Duensing has not made an appearance since starting the second half of their suspended game against the Yankees on Wednesday afternoon. With Nathan out for the season after having Tommy John surgery, Jon Rauch has been effective in the closer role for the Twins. After Friday's game, pitching coach Rick Anderson said he has seen improvements in Rauch's delivery. Anderson said in recent outings -- including a blown save and a loss in his past two outings -- that Rauch was flying off the mound after releasing the ball, sometimes so bad that it looked like he was "running to first base." However, after Rauch recorded a save in Friday's game, Anderson said it was some of the best pitching he had seen the right-hander do in awhile. "I thought tonight was the best he's thrown in a while," Anderson said after Friday's 2-1 win over the Rangers. "He had angle, and his pitches were outstanding. You see the different demeanor tonight. He looked calm and then you look the other night and he's falling all over the place."
Punto out of lineup; Morneau starts at DH
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins made a couple lineup moves for Saturday's game against the Rangers.Infielder Nick Punto was out of the lineup after starting for the first time in four games on Friday. Manager Ron Gardenhire said swinging is still tough on his sore left ring finger when he bats right-handed. With C.J. Wilson, a left-hander, starting for Texas, it was decided Punto would sit the game out. Gardenhire said Punto feels good when batting left-handed and is expected to be back in the lineup in the next few days. Brendan Harris started at third Saturday for the Twins. Justin Morneau started as the designated hitter for the Twins on Saturday as well. Gardenhire said Morneau approached him before the game and asked "What's the DH spot looking like today?" When Gardenhire said it was open, the first baseman asked if he could fill it. "Most players are going to want to play no matter what, but we talk about being smart about it," Gardenhire said. "If you get a DH day and you want to use it, go for it." Morneau is expected to start at first base in Sunday's series finale against the Rangers.
Target Stadium hits one million fans
MINNEAPOLIS -- Saturday's game against the Rangers marked the entrance of the one millionth fan to Target Stadium.With 39,659 people crammed into the ballpark to watch the Twins defeat the Rangers, 8-3, the Twins reached 1,009,657 fans on the season. It was the Twins' 24th sellout of the season in 26 home games. That is the fewest amount of home games it has taken the Twins to reach one million fans in franchise history. The previous record was set in 1988 when it took 31 games to reach that landmark number.
Pat Neshek has thrown several seven-minute bullpens at extended spring training in Florida, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. Gardenhire said there is still some pain in Neshek's finger, but not enough to stop him from pitching. Once Neshek tells the staff he is feeling OK, the next step will be to get him in some games for Class A Fort Myers to start his rehab assignment. ... Clay Condrey is waiting on results from doctors in New York on the status of his right elbow. Gardenhire thought they came up with the same recovery plan as the Twins' doctors did; either pitch through the inflammation or shut it down for a few months. Condrey was going to talk to Twins doctors on Saturday to help him decide what to do.
Jocelyn Syrstad is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.