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04/25/2013 8:00 PM ET

Strong pitching a big reason for better start to season

MINNEAPOLIS -- After slow starts the last two seasons, the Twins are off to a better start this year, as they entered Thursday's game against the Rangers above .500 at 9-8.

It's a much different feeling than last year, when the Twins started out 9-24 and never recovered. But Twins manager Ron Gardenhire warned that he's going to find out more about his club during the tough stretch coming up.

"We're on a stretch here where we have four against these guys, and then Detroit, Cleveland and Boston, and that's just the road trip," Gardenhire said. "And then we come home for more. So we're going to have to be up to the task. We need to be able to continue that to keep our heads up."

Gardenhire pointed to better pitching so far this season, as the Twins entered Thursday's game with a 4.14 ERA, which includes an impressive 2.52 ERA from Minnesota's relievers.

The Twins have also allowed the fewest walks in the Majors with 40, while also walking 71 times on offense.

"Our history around here has been pretty good about both of those stats," Gardenhire said. "We haven't had many big strikeout guys, but we've always been one of the best teams in the league in not walking people. And I expect that."

Gardenhire wants Arcia in lineup as much as possible

MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire reiterated Thursday that he intends to play outfield prospect Oswaldo Arcia as much as possible, because he doesn't want to stunt his development by leaving him on the bench.

Arcia, ranked as the No. 93 overall prospect and as the Twins' No. 5 prospect by MLB.com, was in the lineup against the Rangers on Thursday, batting seventh and serving as designated hitter in place of Ryan Doumit.

He's currently on the roster because backup outfielder Darin Mastroianni is out with a left ankle stress reaction and is expected to miss a few more weeks.

"I've liked this kid forever and want to see him swing," Gardenhire said. "We're moving people around to try to get him in there one way or another. He's up here to swing. So we'll keep running him out there."

Gardenhire admitted it's been tough to keep all of his position players happy with playing time, because the club has already had four games postponed due to weather and had several off-days early in the season.

He's trying his best to play younger players who still need to develop, such as Chris Parmelee, Pedro Florimon, Brian Dozier and Arcia, and it's often come at the expense of backups such as Jamey Carroll, Wilkin Ramirez and Eduardo Escobar.

"Because of the days off, our starters don't feel like they've played a ton of games," Gardenhire said. "And our bench guys are wondering how much they're gonna sit. So with all the rainouts we've been juggling ... for example, a guy like Doumit is champing at the bit so much he probably could bite a bat in half."

Dozier impresses since taking over as leadoff hitter

MINNEAPOLIS -- Second baseman Brian Dozier has fared well in his short stint since taking over as the club's leadoff hitter, and it's impressed Twins manager Ron Gardenhire.

After hitting .152 with a .237 on-base percentage in 10 games batting eighth, Dozier has hit .389 with a .450 on-base percentage in four games since taking over for rookie Aaron Hicks as leadoff hitter.

"I don't worry about him leading off," Gardenhire said. "He's going to go up there and give you effort. He learned a lot last year. He took some lumps and I'm sure he'll take some this year, but he doesn't have any fear."

Gardenhire has also liked the way Dozier has adjusted to moving to second base after playing mostly shortstop in the Minors. He's made just one error this season and has showed good range, especially on balls hit to his left.

"He likes playing second base and you can sense that," Gardenhire said. "He's moving really well over there. He's confident over there. He's playing decent baseball for us."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.