NEW YORK -- Twins center fielder Denard Span has heard plenty of the taunts from Yankees fans during his three seasons with the Twins.But Span only seemed to rile up the group in right-center field -- the famed Yankee Stadium Bleacher Creatures -- by gesturing to the fans to get louder when they started mocking him with various chants during Saturday's 6-1 loss in Game 3 of the ALDS. Among things they yelled at Span was "Tor-ii Hun-ter!" in reference to the former Twin and Span's longtime mentor. "They were just chanting, doing what New Yorkers do," Span said. "Just being a little obnoxious." The gestures began in the fourth inning after the Yankees had opened up a 5-0 lead over the Twins, but Span said that his decision to motion toward the crowd had nothing to do with what was going on in the game at the time. "It had nothing to do with the series," Span said. "They were just having fun, and I was having fun with them. It had nothing to do with the outcome. We could've been winning by 20. They were having fun with me, so I figured I might as well have fun with them."
Thome ponders retirement as 20th season ends
NEW YORK -- Jim Thome's 20th season in the Major Leagues came to an end on Saturday night in the 6-1 loss to the Yankees that completed their sweep in the American League Division Series.But based on the tone of Thome's comments after the game, this season likely won't be his last. "I love the game, I'd love to come back," Thome said. "I really would. Minnesota is a great place. So we'll see how the winter goes." While Thome, 40, has indicated before that he has enjoyed his time in Minnesota and would definitely think about returning to the Twins, the veteran slugger said on Saturday that he would wait to make a decision about his future until he returns home to his family. He said he wants to get their input on everything before he thinks too much about his future. "I'm going to go home and spend a little time with my family and my kids," Thome said. "I've been away from them all summer off and on. Nice to see them every day, take my daughter to school. Be an everyday dad. I'll sit down with my wife and talk about things, see where we're at.
Gardenhire adjusts Twins' batting order
NEW YORK -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire hinted on Friday that there could be some changes to his lineup for Game 3 of the American League Division Series against the Yankees on Saturday. While all nine players remained the same, the order was shifted during the club's 6-1 loss to the Yankees.Jason Kubel was moved up from the seventh spot to bat cleanup behind Joe Mauer. Gardenhire had indicated that he might move a left-handed batter behind Mauer, with Yankees right-hander Phil Hughes on the mound for Game 3. The decision likely came down to either Kubel or Jim Thome as the left-handed hitter in the fourth spot. Kubel got the nod despite his .080 career batting average (2-for-25) in the postseason. But Kubel entered the game 2-for-3 in his career against Hughes, and Gardenhire likes what Kubel brings to the spot. Kubel went 0-for-4 on Saturday. "I put Kubel there plenty of times [in the regular season]," Gardenhire said before the game. "I like it for the fact Joe gets on first base open right there, a chance for [Kubel] to jerk a ball through there. Kubel jerks the ball a little bit more. With Thome, they move the defense around so much it's a little screwed up. With Kubel, it's normal. He'll get a chance to jerk a ball through that hole. "When there's a right-hander out there and Mauer's up, they have a tendency to pitch around him a lot if first base is open. With Kubel behind him, it seems like it works pretty good." With Kubel moving up to the cleanup spot, Gardenhire didn't want to drastically alter his lineup. So he moved Delmon Young down a spot to fifth and kept Thome behind him in the sixth hole. That meant Michael Cuddyer batted seventh for the first time this season. "He's actually been swinging good, so there's a little balance throughout the lineup," Gardenhire said. "I didn't want to move Delmon down too far. He's been swinging good, so I just backed them all up a little bit."
Lack of bench pop where Twins are hurting
NEW YORK -- Between Michael Cuddyer's steadiness at first base and Delmon Young's emergence at the plate, the Twins were able to put together a very good lineup without former American League MVP Justin Morneau over the past 3 1/2 months. But the first two games of the AL Division Series showed the AL Central champions bench lacks power.
That's where the Twins miss Morneau, or at least, the respected hitter whom the Twins would have out of the lineup on a given day if Morneau was playing every day. Jim Thome went from a platooning power source to an everyday bat at designated hitter, and Minnesota could never quite find a replacement for him off the bench. Manager Ron Gardenhire did not use his bench in the series finale against the Yankees, a 6-1 defeat.
"Earlier in the season, when we had Morneau in the lineup, you're going to have one really good hitter on the bench that you could use off the bench," Gardenhire said before Game 3. "But the luxury that we had with Morneau, whether it was Thome on the bench or [Jason] Kubel or Delmon on the bench, we don't have that. We don't have that big guy you can run in there in a big hole."
Normally, that doesn't come up very often in the AL during the regular season. Move into a postseason series, and a short one in this case, where each situational at-bat becomes much more important because every game is important, and that absence looms larger.
Twins pinch-hitters went 12-for-74 (.162), with two home runs, six RBIs and 26 strikeouts in pinch-hit situations during the regular season. Their pinch-hitters were 20-for-66 (.303) with four homers, 15 RBIs and 18 strikeouts last year.
Gardenhire sticks with Hardy in lineup
NEW YORK -- Manager Ron Gardenhire openly thought during Friday's off-day workout about replacing J.J. Hardy with Alexi Casilla in the Twins' lineup for Game 3 on Saturday. When he took a longer look at his offense and how to spark it, however, he came back to the idea that Hardy was his best guy.
"He's a very good hit-and-run guy," Gardenhire said, "and I like that at the bottom of the order. We talked about maybe trying to move runners and do some hitting and running, and Hardy's really good at that."
The stats back it up. Hardy ranked 16th among American League players, and easily atop the Twins' leaderboard, in percentage of pitches put in play at 50 percent, according to STATS. He missed on just 15.6 percent of his swings, 36th lowest in the league. With Michael Cuddyer and rookie Danny Valencia ahead of him, Hardy at least gives Minnesota some options to try to manufacture some offense.
The other reason for Gardenhire to stick with Hardy, he said, was defense.
"Just looked at where we're at and wanted Hardy back out there to catch the ball," he said. "Make sure we do those things. Casilla can come off the bench."
After taking part in a light workout at Yankee Stadium early on Friday afternoon, the Twins had to wait until an 8:37 p.m. ET start on Saturday for Game 3 and their chance to stave off elimination in the best-of-five American League Division Series. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was asked how difficult it was to wait around for the late game: "Brutal," he said. "I left the hotel at 1:30 p.m., got here at 2 and then sat here since then. So it's a long day, long day." ... Although the Twins had a long time to wait for the start time of Game 3, the group kept loose in the clubhouse by watching college football. Longtime clubhouse attendant Wayne "Big Fella" Hattaway provided some entertainment. Hattaway, a diehard University of Alabama fan, had the team laughing with his intense viewing of the Alabama-South Carolina football game.