CHICAGO -- The Twins were looking for a way to give Joe Mauer a few more days of rest at the start of the second half and veteran starter Carl Pavano found what seemed like an ideal solution when Drew Butera became his personal catcher.Pavano and Butera had been paired up in previous starts due to timing and the two had achieved positive results together. So it seemed the pairing of the two would be a good fit for the club, as well as give Mauer an opportunity to a rest his body while he either got a day off or was slotted in as the designated hitter. But with the Twins getting closer to locking up the American League Central title and the postseason looming, Butera's streak of catching Pavano for 12 straight starts came to an end on Thursday. Mauer was slotted in the lineup as the catcher for Thursday's series finale against the White Sox, an eventual 8-5 victory, with Pavano taking the mound. "We've been talking about this for a while, Joe catching him," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Especially when you get to this time of year, we need Joe. He wants to catch him, they've talked and it's just the way it's going to be. He's going to catch him." There was another reason behind Gardenhire's decision to make the change at this time. With Jason Kubel out of the lineup on Thursday due to a sore left wrist, Gardenhire wanted to play Mauer, who is now hitting .331 on the season, and also keep Jim Thome in the lineup as well. That meant that Mauer would have to catch so Thome could be the club's designated hitter. It left Butera, who has batted .184 in 39 games, on the bench and switched up the pairing that has been so successful for the club over recent months. "Drew has done a great job," Gardenhire said. "It's been perfect because we've been able to give Joe those days, DH days, and that can still happen the rest of the way too. Tonight, I want Mauer catching and Thome in the lineup even against [White Sox southpaw starter Mark] Buehrle. We've got Kubel out, so I want [Thome's] bat in there." That's not to say that Butera won't catch Pavano again. But it looks like the Twins will try to mix both catchers in so that Mauer feels comfortable working with Pavano as well since they'll be paired together in any postseason games. "Both have to be able to catch him," Gardenhire said. "Mauer can catch him. Believe me, Mauer is fine with him. We've talked about this, that eventually when we get down here in a pennant race real tight and we want all these bats in the lineup, we'd do it. That's where we are at. We're in a pennant race."
Kubel rests wrists; Repko starts in right
CHICAGO -- Jason Kubel said that his sore left wrist was feeling better on Thursday, but as expected, it was Jason Repko who got the start in right field for the Twins in their 8-5 victory.Manager Ron Gardenhire had said after Kubel left Wednesday's game in the fifth inning with soreness in his wrist that he would give the outfielder a rest for Thursday's finale. With left-hander Mark Buehrle on the mound for the White Sox, it gave the skipper a good opportunity to rest Kubel. Kubel said he's been dealing with some soreness in his wrist since he was hit by a pitch in the wrist on Aug. 31. He missed four games immediately after getting hit by the pitch. But he had managed to play pretty much every day once he returned to the lineup. That is until Wednesday night when he was bothered by it once again "It really affected my swing last night," Kubel said. "I couldn't do much with it. But it's getting better. I got some new medicine and it should be all right." The Twins are set to face three left-handed starters in their series against the A's this weekend at Target Field and Gardenhire said that it's possible he could give Kubel a couple extra days to let the wrist heal.
Pitching key to Twins' second-half surge
CHICAGO -- The Twins have found themselves currently in the hunt for the best record in the Majors, and it's thanks in large part to their second-half surge.The Twins were a Major League-best 42-16 since the All-Star break. The .724 winning percentage is the highest mark ever by the club in the second half of a season. The Twins aren't strangers to second-half surges. Of the team's best seasons in terms of winning percentages after the All-Star break, four of the top six have come since 2002, when Ron Gardenhire took over as manager. That includes a 46-23 record (.667 winning percentage) in the second half of 2003 and a 49-27 record (.645) in the second half of 2006. So what's been the key to the Twins making so many strong pushes in the second half? "I wish I had an answer for it," Gardenhire said. "You get to that halfway point of the season, you kind of see where you're at and what you need to do and go from there. It's not like you don't try in the first half, but once you get to that second half of the season it's just, 'Now we know, boys. You've got to go. You've got to try to get there.' It's a run. We've always said it's a long season, it's a marathon but as it winds down, you have to start making some moves and fortunately for us our pitching got healthy and once our pitching got healthy in the second half, we started taking off."
Delmon Young tallied his 100th RBI on Wednesday night. It's a career high for the left fielder, who became the 16th different Twins player to reach the mark. With two more on Thursday, Young jumped up to ninth place in the Majors this season. ... With a 2-for-5 showing at the plate Thursday, Joe Mauer batted .451 (32-for-71) against the White Sox this season. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it's the second-highest average for any Major League player vs. one team this season. The only one that is better? Mauer's .516 average against the Royals (32-for-62).
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.