04/29/2013 7:10 PM ET
Starters' ability to battle keys Twins' success
By Chris Vannini / Special to MLB.com
DETROIT -- A year ago, the Twins didn't pick up their 11th win until May 16, stumbling to a 10-26 start.
They arrived in Detroit on Monday with an 11-10 record, having won two consecutive games against the Rangers to split their weekend series. What's been the difference? Pitching has been one key.
The Twins have a 3.73 ERA, good for sixth in the American League. Last season, they ranked 13th in the AL with a 4.77 ERA. Manager Ron Gardenhire cited his starters' ability to battle through things as a big reason for the improvement.
"Just how they hang in there," he said. "[Vance] Worley's had a couple starts where he didn't look like he had a whole heck of a lot, but he made it through five innings just by battling, and a couple other guys have been able to do the same thing. Even without their best stuff, they've gone out there and competed, and at least got us into the second half of the game.
"Last year, a lot of those games ended up in the third inning, and we went into the bullpen. That's the impressive part. These guys know how to pitch enough to get us deeper in the game, even when they haven't had their best stuff."
The series against Texas helped Gardenhire cement that belief -- starters allowed only five of the Rangers' eight runs in four games -- but the Tigers will be another tough test.
"We'll get another strong signal right here. But yes, we pitched well against Texas, a team that can really hit the baseball," Gardenhire said. "The weather wasn't cold, so we know it was that our pitching was good.
"We're going to get another big test here in Detroit with another lineup that can absolutely abuse you, baseball-wise, with offense, and we're going to have to do the same thing. [Texas] was definitely one of those moments where you sit back and say, 'How are we going to handle this lineup?' We did very well."
Move to top of lineup sparks Dozier, Twins
DETROIT -- Infielder Brian Dozier has found a home in the leadoff spot -- at least for the time being.
Dozier hit .152 (5-for-33) with a .237 on-base percentage through the first 10 games, hitting out of the No. 8 spot. He moved to the leadoff spot on April 16, went 2-for-5 with a walk and two RBIs, and has been there ever since.
Dozier is 12-for-37 (.324) through nine games in the leadoff spot, pushing his season average up to .243 and on-base percentage up to .295. The Twins are 5-4 in those games.
"I guess it excited him. I'm sure he got fired up for it," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He's up to the challenge. He's the kind of kid you don't worry about too much. From Spring Training Day 1, when he came in there and moved over to second base, he just had all the confidence in the world. When you started to look at it after we moved [outfielder Aaron Hicks out of the leadoff spot], he was pretty simple to stick in there. I didn't think too much would bother him.
"He's just going to go about his business and he has. He can run a little bit, he's not afraid to steal some bases and he's putting a lot of good swings together."
Dozier went 0-for-4 Monday to snap a four-game hitting streak and a 10-game streak of reaching base safely.
"He's been at the top of the lineup [in the minors]. Even in spring, I had him batting second," Gardenhire said. "He's used to hitting in the first inning. Like I said, he's not a kid I'm too awful worried about. He went through some things last year and has rebounded very nicely."
Plouffe shows support for Collins' coming out
DETROIT -- With the news that NBA player Jason Collins came out in Sports Illustrated as a gay professional athlete, the reaction in most of the sports world has been positive and welcoming.
For Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe, the news was close to home -- literally. Plouffe grew up in the Los Angeles area, about 20 minutes away from where Collins grew up.
"I'm happy for him," Plouffe said. "It's amazing that it's taken this long [for someone to come out]. I have no problem with it at all, and hopefully it opens the door for more guys to come out, so they can feel like themselves and not have to hide something."
Collins played at Stanford and has been in the NBA since 2001. As the first active athlete to come out among the major American sports, he hopes this helps other athletes. So does Plouffe, who called it "good for sports."
"It should have been sooner, in my opinion," Plouffe said. "Like I said, hopefully that opens the door for other guys to come out so they don't have to live a double life. [They can] just come out and be who you are."
• Right-hander Cole De Vries (forearm) will pitch an extended spring training game on Tuesday.
• Outfielder Darin Mastroianni, currently in a walking boot, will get his left ankle checked out Wednesday. Even if things look good, he is not expected to join the team on their road trip.
Chris Vannini is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.