05/10/12 12:15 AM ET
Twins call up Mastroianni, Walters amid shuffle
By Rhett Bollinger / MLB.com
Minnesota optioned third baseman Danny Valencia to Triple-A Rochester and designated left-handed pitcher Matt Maloney for assignment. To replace the two players, the Twins will recall outfielder Darin Mastroianni from Triple-A, and will purchase the contract of right-hander P.J. Walters from Rochester in time for Thursday's game against the Blue Jays.
Additionally, Walters will start on Saturday against Toronto, as left-hander Francisco Liriano will be moved to the bullpen.
"This is just something that we've got to do right now," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We need to make some changes. We need some hits. We need some new life in here, the whole package."
Valencia went 0-for-4 with an RBI on Wednesday to continue his recent slide, as he's hitless in his last 25 at-bats. It's been a frustrating season for Valencia, who is hitting just .190 in 27 games just two years after hitting .311 in 85 games as a rookie in 2010.
"Obviously nobody wants to get sent down, but it's hard not to say I didn't see it coming because I haven't been hitting very well," Valencia said. "I've been inconsistent. My defense has been good, but I'm a guy that needs to contribute offensively."
The Twins will use a combination of Alexi Casilla, Jamey Carroll and Trevor Plouffe at third base in Valencia's absence.
Mastroianni, meanwhile, began the season at Double-A New Britain, batting .143 with one double in nine games, before being promoted to Rochester on April 14. In 19 games with the Red Wings, he hit .346 with two doubles, two triples and 10 stolen bases.
"Mastroianni has been playing the living fire out of the game down there," Gardenhire said. "Probably the most exciting player they have on that baseball team right now, running bases, stealing bases. He can fly. We'll see. We'll see how he does."
Walters made six starts with the Red Wings, posting a 2.70 ERA with 25 strikeouts and six walks. Saturday will mark his fifth career big league start, as he has a career 7.24 ERA in 20 games with the Cardinals and Blue Jays.
"He's a strike-thrower, mixes all his pitches in," Gardenhire said. "Velocity's somewhere between 87 to 90. Very confident. They tell me he's the best pitcher available right now. He's throwing the ball very, very well."
With Walters joining the rotation, Liriano, who has a 9.45 ERA in five starts, will move to the bullpen, but his stay could be short if he starts to turn it around.
"We just gotta get him right," Gardenhire said. "We've got to get him into some situations to try and get him some success. We've talked about it. Maybe a couple innings here, a couple innings there, he blows some people away and gets some kind of mojo going. Then we see if we can get him back in there. We need him as a starter."
Armed with a 'splangeup,' Burton is dealing
MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has been impressed by reliever Jared Burton, who entered Wednesday's game having thrown 10 1/3 hitless innings dating back to April 13.
Since giving up a single to the Angels' Vernon Wells on April 12, opponents are 0-for-31 with 11 strikeouts and two walks against Burton.
"It's exciting," Gardenhire said. "We talked about in Spring Training how our bullpen would go and we liked what we saw from him in Spring Training. He's coming off this [shoulder] thing and his pitches are getting better and better. We're not afraid to use him back to back, but we're trying not to. Same with multiple innings. I think that's gonna help him."
Burton, who had arthroscopic shoulder surgery while with the Reds last season, has pitched in consecutive games twice this season, and has yet to throw more than one inning.
He's seen success with a pitch he describes as a "splangeup," which is a combination of a splitter and changeup.
"You definitely see it dive," Gardenhire said. "He throws it with the same arm action as a fastball, so that's the big thing. It throws off the hitter's timing."
Hendriks gets in gear in Triple-A
MINNEAPOLIS -- Right-hander Liam Hendriks made his first start with Triple-A Rochester on Tuesday after struggling in four starts with the Twins.
Hendriks, ranked as the Twins' No. 8 prospect, allowed one run on three hits over 5 2/3 innings against Pawtucket. It was a better result for Hendriks, who posted a 9.00 ERA in 18 innings with Minnesota.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire heard good reports about Hendriks' outing, and was happy to see him bounce back in his first start with the Red Wings.
"It was crisp," Gardenhire said. "He threw 90 pitches, so it was still a lot of pitches for 5 2/3, but he did his job. He did a nice job. It seemed like he had control of the game. He only gave up three hits."
Gardenhire likes what he sees in Komatsu
MINNEAPOLIS -- A day after sitting out for the first time this season, center fielder Denard Span was back atop the lineup against the Angels on Wednesday.
Span was held out of action on Tuesday after running into the wall in Monday's game at Target Field. But the day off was scheduled, according to Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, and Span felt well enough to make his return on Wednesday.
With Span back in center, Erik Komatsu moved over to right field to mark his fifth straight start with the Twins since being claimed off waivers from the Cardinals on Friday.
Komatsu picked up his first career RBI in Tuesday's 5-0 win, and is hitting .143 so far with the Twins. But as Gardenhire pointed out, he's been robbed of a few hits by the Angels' Torii Hunter in right field.
"I like the way he takes at-bats and goes about his business," Gardenhire said. "He takes good swings. He's not just Punch and Judy. He's up there taking some rips. I just told him he needs to be a little smarter with his hitting because there's a nine-time Gold Glove guy out there and he keeps trying to beat Torii in the gap, but that's not going to happen."
Komatsu is expected to split time in right field with Trevor Plouffe moving forward. Plouffe is hitting just .140 this season, but Gardenhire has been encouraged by the fact he's drawn 10 walks and struck out six times in 53 plate appearances.
"He's just missing pitches, but he's taking some good swings and has taken some big walks," Gardenhire said. "His batting average will come. He needs to keep the ball out of the air. He's just missing the ball. But he's taking good at-bats and is getting on base."