CLEVELAND -- The Twins have a pair of hitters in their lineup -- catcher Joe Mauer and first baseman Justin Morneau -- who have merited the American League Most Valuable Player Award. Glen Perkins, Jared Burton and Casey Fien have formed a reliable back end of the bullpen. Josh Willingham ranks among the AL leaders in homers and RBIs.
So when manager Ron Gardenhire peers into his crystal ball and speculates where his club might need an offseason overhaul, he singles out the starting rotation.
"We know we need pitching," Gardenhire said. "We have to have starting pitching, and I'm not talking just a few decent arms. I'm talking quality starting pitching. We have to have some people give us a chance. Once you start getting your brains beat out, it kind of rolls over. You need those one or two guys that every time they step up, you have a chance to end a streak or start a new streak or keep a streak going."
The Twins carried a team ERA of 4.82 into Thursday's finale with the Tribe, tied with Cleveland for worst in the AL. The club is currently depending on a five-man rotation of Samuel Deduno, Liam Hendriks, Scott Diamond, Esmerling Vasquez and P.J. Walters that has combined for 28 career Major League victories. Gardenhire suspected that the pitching deficiency has put too large of a burden on the offense to perform.
"Ultimately, that's what happens," Gardenhire said. "You give in to the same pattern every day. What's frustrating is you go out and score two runs in the first inning and then you give up two runs in the first inning and you're like, 'Just give us that chance. Just let us breathe a little bit.'
"That's what's been hard. It's not like they're not trying, but that's the scuffle, that's been the tough part for the offense. When you get behind, you get out of what you're able to do. You make silly outs. You take fewer chances on the basepaths. All of that goes into scoring runs."
Gardenhire admitted that much of the roster could use some refining. He doesn't anticipate a quiet winter in Minnesota.
"There are so many things that need to get fixed," he said. "How close are we? I don't know. We'll see what we do this winter. We've got pitching problems. We're still trying to figure out a defense, where we're going to play people. There are things to get done. We won't really know how we'll stand next year until we get through the winter."
Herrmann helps Hendriks notch first big league win
CLEVELAND -- In the fourth inning of Wednesday's 6-4 win over the Indians, right-hander Liam Hendriks and catcher Chris Herrmann had some miscommunication, which led to a passed ball.
"Liam got crossed up," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Herrmann put a sign down and Liam threw the other sign. I think it was an Australian thing."
That was about the only lapse of synergy between the battery during Hendriks' first career big league victory. The native of Perth, Australia, pitching to his former teammate at Double-A New Britain and roommate in Spring Training, earned his first win in 18 starts after tossing six strong innings against the Tribe.
"It's nice to get the young man a win," Gardenhire said. "He and [Herrmann] got together and did a nice job and put us in a position to win a game, and fortunately for us, we held on there."
It was the first career start behind the plate for Herrmann, whom the Twins promoted from New Britain last Friday.
"I've thrown to him in the Minor Leagues countless times," said Hendriks, who became the 16th player from Australia to earn a Major League win. "It was great for me, and I'm sure it was great for him in his first game. He now has a [perfect record] while catching, so it's a pretty big deal, and I'm pretty excited."
Herrmann notched his first big league RBI in Wednesday's triumph, but he is still seeking his first hit. That played into Gardenhire's decision to start him at designated hitter in Thursday's matinee at Progressive Field.
"We're going to get him a hit," Gardenhire said. "He has really good at-bats."
Mauer entered Thursday batting .460 (23-for-50) over his last 14 games.
The middle of Minnesota's batting order has feasted on Cleveland pitching this season. Morneau, who received a regular day off on Thursday, is batting .281 with six homers and 20 RBIs in 15 games. Mauer is hitting .328 with 15 RBIs in 17 contests. Willingham has slugged four homers and driven in 19 runs while hitting .279 in 16 affairs.