Despite callups, Twins stuck with short bench
Injuries have Minnesota playing a few players short
MINNEAPOLIS -- September is typically the time of year when managers have a little more flexibility with their rosters thanks to callups.But that isn't exactly the case for the Twins right now due to their long list of injuries. Manager Ron Gardenhire said that even though his club added catcher Jose Morales and infielder Trevor Plouffe on Wednesday, the team is still playing without a full 25-man roster due to the injuries to Jim Thome, Orlando Hudson and Jason Kubel. His hope is still perhaps to convince general manager Bill Smith to bring one more player up to Minnesota before the Triple-A season ends on Monday.
"The luxury that you have [in September] is the bench gets a little bit thicker when you get people up here," Gardenhire said. "I'm still asking for more and haven't received it yet. But that's kind of where I'm at right now. I'd like to add maybe another player just because of the injuries."In addition to some of those injured players hopefully ready to return in the next couple days, the Twins should also be getting some players back from the disabled list soon. Infielder Nick Punto is eligible to come off the DL on Sunday, although it seems like his strained left hamstring will require a few more days than that. The club is trying to be careful with the hamstring this time around after Punto re-injured himself in his first game back from the DL.
Twins' list of injured players not shrinking yet
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins' list of injuries didn't exactly shrink on Thursday, as none of the club's injured players returned to the field. But it sounds like there isn't much of a concern regarding the injuries besides perhaps Jason Kubel's left wrist.Kubel's wrist was still bruised and a little swollen on Thursday, but the good news is that an MRI on Tuesday night showed no break. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said that the club will likely have Kubel undergo further testing on the wrist on Friday morning since it's still pretty sore. "The swelling is better but he's sore," Gardenhire said. "So we'll definitely get it checked out a little more." Jim Thome's back was feeling much better on Thursday, but he was still not in the lineup. Gardenhire said that the hope is Thome will be ready to DH on Friday, although he's available to pinch-hit for the finale against the Tigers like he did in the ninth inning of Wednesday's contest. Second baseman Orlando Hudson was out running around on the field and taking ground balls during batting practice without visibly showing any problems in his right ankle. Hudson is anxious to get back in the lineup, but Gardenhire said he wants to wait one more day before getting him back on the field to make sure he's ready to go. "He's fired up and that's a good thing," Gardenhire said. "He said he's doing a lot better. Yesterday he didn't do anything. Today he's taking his ground balls and doing everything. Hopefully by tomorrow he'll be back out there available to play. He's definitely moving better." Left-hander Brian Fuentes' back is feeling better, but he still wasn't available out of the bullpen for Thursday's contest. It still could be a couple days before Fuentes is ready, as it doesn't sound like he's tired to throw yet.
Liriano responding well to extra rest
MINNEAPOLIS -- Perhaps one of the best things to come out of Wednesday night's victory over the Tigers was the performance of Francisco Liriano in a pitching duel with Tigers starter Max Scherzer and also how Liriano felt after the outing.Liriano, who pitched seven scoreless innings vs. Detroit, battled a little bit of a dead arm last month. But since then, the Twins have been trying to give him extra rest between outings. That includes seven days of rest before a start at Texas on Aug. 26 and five days of rest before his start on Wednesday against Detroit. "I feel way better," Liriano said after the win. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said that the Twins will try to keep giving Liriano extra rest between outings, using off-days to do so and perhaps the return of Kevin Slowey from the disabled list might also provide an opportunity as well. "The rest helps him," Gardenhire said. "The extra day always helps him, and it does with all these guys this time of year."
More relievers give Twins greater flexibility
MINNEAPOLIS -- Due to some new additions to their relief staff, the Twins perhaps have the ability to use matchups more than they have in the past. Holding a 1-0 lead in the eighth inning of Wednesday's contest against the Tigers, manager Ron Gardenhire used three relievers in situational matchups to get through the inning -- although he said on Thursday that it won't necessarily be a common thing."If the game dictates that, then you do it," Gardenhire said when asked if he'll now use situational matchups more often. "Last night, the situations came up." Jesse Crain pitched to the first two batters of the inning, walking leadoff man Austin Jackson before getting Will Rhymes to pop out on a bunt attempt. The Tigers then decided to bring in left-handed hitter Johnny Damon off the bench to pinch-hit with one out and a man on first. Gardenhire said that his club had intentionally warmed up lefty Randy Flores just for this situation and so they turned to Flores rather than leave in Crain. "The one left-hander they had on the bench that we didn't want to beat us was Johnny Damon," Gardenhire said. "Johnny Damon with a man on first base is as good as anybody in the game at hooking a ball through the hole. That's the guy we did not want to come up to the plate. That's why we had Flores up." With Flores taking the mound, the Tigers sent Damon back to the bench and used pinch-hitter Ryan Raburn who struck out swinging. From there, Gardenhire called on Matt Guerrier with Miguel Cabrera, Jhonny Peralta and Brandon Inge as the next three hitters in the order and they were a combined 5-for-59 against the right-hander. Of course things didn't play out exactly as the Twins had planned. Guerrier walked Cabrera on six pitches, and Gardenhire was pleased with the way Guerrier approached the at-bat by not giving in to one of the best hitters in the AL this year. But then Peralta, who was 3-for-23 off Guerrier coming in, got enough of a slider that was a little up and hit a single that scored a run to tie the game at 1. "We had it set up fine, but you don't want to go to have to go too many situations like that," Gardenhire said. "A lot easier to put a guy out there and leave it, but the one guy on the bench we didn't want to hit was Johnny Damon."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.