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MINNEAPOLIS -- Rookies have played an important role in the Twins' ability to make such an impressive turnaround and earn a spot in this year's postseason.
Now, the Twins will look to yet another rookie for help earning postseason success.
Left-handed reliever Glen Perkins was named as the final addition to the postseason roster before Tuesday's game. The Twins chose to go with Perkins over right-handed reliever Willie Eyre and right-handed starter Matt Garza.
Perkins did not join the Twins until Sept. 19, after spending most of the year with Double-A New Britain. The decision was based mostly on the team's need for another lefty out of the bullpen.
Garza had been in the running to be one of the team's four starters in the playoffs as recently as last week, but the return of Brad Radke and the emergence of Carlos Silva in Sunday's start eliminated him from that race. While Garza was up for the final spot as a long reliever, it was the difference between how he and Perkins each handled the pressure of big situations that also secured the decision.
"Garza looks like he gets just a little bit out of whack at times," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He's done very well for us, coming from where he came from. But we decided to go with a guy that handles himself a little better, and Perkins sure showed that the couple of times we put him out there."
Perkins racked up a 1.59 ERA in 5 2/3 innings of work for the Twins, including some strong outings against tough lineups like the Red Sox, Orioles and White Sox.
Used mostly as a long reliever for the Twins, despite spending most of his career as a starter, Perkins will take a late-inning role if the club's only other lefty, Dennys Reyes, is not available.
"The late ones, I'd like to save Reyes for that," Gardenhire said. "But if I have to use Reyes in a big situation early, then Perkins is obviously going to come into play. I don't have a fear, he can throw the ball and I think he'll attack a hitter."
Gardenhire admitted that the most difficult part of the final decision was having to keep Eyre off the playoff roster. Eyre has been with the club all season, going 1-0 with a 5.31 ERA in 42 appearances (59 1/3 innings).
"It's tough on him, but I think they both understand that we've been going with 12 pitchers all year and we had to get down to 11," Gardenhire said. "A left-hander in this situation is big."
Lefty shot: The Twins' position players on the postseason roster played out just as expected, with Jason Kubel, Jason Tyner, Luis Rodgriguez, and Mike Redmond compiling the team's bench players on Tuesday.
Kubel's spot on the roster had appeared to be at risk, with the emergence of infielder Alexi Casilla as a speed option off the bench. But Casilla's neck troubles kept him off the roster, and the Twins instead will look to Kubel to provide a strong left-handed bat off the bench in pinch-hitting situations. Kubel hasn't shown to be strong in that role, going 0-for-14 this season and 0-for-19 in his career.
Despite the struggles, Gardenhire said the club still will count on him to be able to step up.
"It's a little tough, but if we get down in those big situations where it's just a terrible matchup for a right-handed hitter vs. a right-handed pitcher, then you are going to have to throw him out there," Gardenhire said. "Hopefully he's a good enough hitter to come up with a hit here or there for us."
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The bullpen has been one of the Twins' greatest strengths all season, but heading into the playoffs, the roles for the relievers were a tad more undefined than earlier this season.
Juan Rincon has been the primary setup man for the Twins over the past few seasons, but he likely won't be the first to get the call in that role this postseason after tallying a 4.76 ERA over the final two months of the season. Instead, that spot will go to Jesse Crain.
"Jesse, right now, is setting up for the eighth inning better than anybody else," Gardenhire said.
Pat Neshek, Dennys Reyes and even Rincon will also be considered for late-inning duty. Matchups will be the primary determination for exactly who the club might use, with the team trying to avoid using Neshek against too many left-handed hitters.
Oh happy day:
The first three games of the Twins-Athletics Division Series are early contests, with the Yankees being featured in the prime-time affairs. It didn't come as much of a surprise.
"It happened to us when we played Oakland in 2002 and played all day games," Michael Cuddyer said. "It happened when we played the Yankees and played all prime-time games. As a player, you understand that and go out when they tell you to go out there."
The Twins may not be able to change the schedule, but clearly they all would prefer to be playing at night. Day games have spelled success for the club this season -- at least at the Metrodome, where they were 15-8 in afternoon starts.
"I usually don't get up until the afternoon," catcher Joe Mauer said with a laugh. "But you're in the playoffs, so it will be easy to get up for these games."
The sight of No. 34 has been prominent around the Metrodome all season long after the Twins dedicated the season to former Twins great and Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett, who passed away this past March.
And on the first day of the playoffs, Puckett wasn't far from thought. Puckett's two children, Catherine and Kirby Jr., were on hand to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Brad Radke and Torii Hunter, both of whom were very close to Puckett, were waiting behind home plate to receive the pitches.