05/24/12 10:36 PM ET
Twins weathering injury storm on road trip
By Brian Hedger / Special to MLB.com
The question: "How has your team changed during this road trip, if at all?"
The answer: "Oh, there's been changes. There's been lots of changes ... and body parts."
Gardenhire's Twins, of course, are currently down to just Carl Pavano as the lone remaining starting pitcher who began the season in the rotation. Injuries have forced a number of new faces and new arms into the mix, but over the previous seven games the team has responded well, with a 5-2 record heading into Thursday night's series finale against the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.
After the chuckles died down from his initial response, Gardenhire got right down to the heart of what's most helped his team succeed during this road swing that's seen Minnesota win series against Detroit and Milwaukee before splitting the first two games in Chicago.
"Confidence," Gardenhire said bluntly. "When you start winning games and you put little streaks together ... I think we've gone 5-2 on this trip and played some pretty good baseball teams and played pretty good ... definitely the confidence level is up there. We expect to win."
The Twins have also started to expect better offensive efforts, excluding a 6-0 loss on Wednesday night in which they stranded six baserunners. Overall in the first seven games, the Twins hit a collective .278 and averaged 6.3 runs per game. They also clubbed seven home runs and hit .307 with runners in scoring position.
That part, according to veteran infielder Jamey Carroll, was instrumental in the team's turnaround from its previous losing ways.
"The combination to being successful is getting good starting pitching and timely hitting, and we seem like we've gotten some big key hits with runners in scoring position," Carroll said. "It allows our pitchers to come out and attack the zone and have more of a comfort level. Obviously, when you win some games it builds your confidence level and it helps out."
On Wednesday night, the Twins lapsed back into some bad habits at the plate by hitting into three double plays to thwart rallies -- which pushed them to 49 on the season to trail only Baltimore's 50 for most in the Majors. However, the trip as a whole hasn't seen quite as many offensive opportunities squandered.
"It's just having a couple guys get some key hits here and there," Carroll said.
"That's big, and that's something that's kind of been missing throughout the year. In most games, it comes down to who gets the key hits and then comes back out and gets a shutdown inning -- and we've been able to do that on this road trip for the majority of it."
Doumit sits out finale against White Sox
CHICAGO -- Manager Ron Gardenhire is eager to get Ryan Doumit back behind the plate in a game, but the Twins catcher will have to wait a little while longer.
Doumit, who was the Twins' designated hitter in the first two games of this series against the White Sox, was out of the starting lineup on Thursday because of how his strained right calf muscle responded after Wednesday night's game.
Gardenhire said prior to that game that he would assess Doumit following the game and possibly even start him for the series finale on Thursday night. Instead, Drew Butera was penciled in as the Twins' backstop, with Joe Mauer serving as the the DH.
"He felt it a little bit last night," Gardenhire said of Doumit, who picked up a pair of hits on Tuesday before going 0-for-4 on Wednesday. "He's been legging out some doubles and we told him to take it nice and easy, but you know, once you get playing in a game and you see something, you're going to go for it. So he was little bit stiffer last night after the game. I backed him off today."
Gardenhire said he still hopes to get Doumit behind the plate again sooner than later, but not before he's absolutely sure there's no further injury risk.
"One thing we talked about is when we get home I want to see him catch some bullpens and I want to see him throw to some bases, because I'd like to get him behind the plate," Gardenhire said.
There was also another line of thinking with Butera getting the start against the White Sox on Thursday, and it had to do with rookie Cole De Vries making his Major League debut on the mound for the Twins.
"He's going to be nervous to start the game," Gardenhire said of De Vries. "We know that and that's the great part about it. You get this opportunity to step out on a Major League mound and do something you've wanted to do your whole life, so he'll be nervous. Hopefully he'll be able to gather himself enough and we've got Drew catching him, who's caught him [in the Minors]. He knows Drew, so maybe they'll work well together."
With a pair of home runs on Thursday, Justin Morneau moved past Torii Hunter for seventh all time on the Twins home run list, with 193. The multi-homer game was the 16th of Morneau's career.
Brian Hedger is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.