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05/07/2013 7:20 PM ET

Twins give reason for potential basestealers to stay put

BOSTON -- The Twins were one of the worst teams in baseball at controlling the run game last year, but they have improved in that area this season.

The Twins ranked third-to-last in the Majors last year with an 18 percent caught-stealing rate, but this year they rank tied for first in the big leagues by throwing out 56 percent of attempting basestealers.

"It's been better," Twins general manager Terry Ryan said. "I don't think there's any doubt."

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he's happy with the results so far, as it was a major point of emphasis in Spring Training. He says he likes to see his pitchers use a slide-step to get the ball quicker to home plate with a runner on base.

"It's one of the things we preached in Spring Training," Gardenhire said. "Last year, we couldn't hold runners. And it was giving extra bases and leading to one run here and one run there in close games. And that's just not acceptable."

Catcher Joe Mauer has seen a major improvement, as he threw out a career-worst 14 percent (9-for-65) of attempting basestealers last year, but he leads the Majors by throwing out 60 percent (6-for-10) this year. Ryan Doumit has also thrown out three of six this year after throwing out just eight of 39 last year (21 percent).

"You have to give the catcher a chance," Gardenhire said. "When Joe gets a chance, he throws them out. Same with Doumit."

Carroll's numbers earn him start at leadoff, short

BOSTON -- With good numbers against Red Sox right-hander Ryan Dempster, Jamey Carroll made a rare start at shortstop on Tuesday and hit leadoff for the Twins.

Carroll, who enters Tuesday's game with a career .429 average (6-for-14) against Dempster, made his first start of the season at shortstop after making 64 starts there last year. It gave starting shortstop Pedro Florimon the day off and bumped second baseman Brian Dozier from the leadoff spot to the No. 9 spot in the order.

"He's got numbers," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We kind of worked it around and looked at a lot of different situations, but the bottom line is he has good numbers against the guy. He's been swinging good the last couple of times, and we'll see if he can continue to do that."

Carroll, 39, has played well in limited playing time with the Twins, hitting .321 with a .387 on-base percentage in 12 games. Gardenhire said he's continued to be impressed by the 12-year veteran, as he's playing well despite making just eight starts so far this season in the club's first 29 games.

"He's been doing it for a long time," Gardenhire said. "He has a short enough swing and stays in the zone for the most part. He's never easy if you've been through that role. But like I said, he's been doing it a long time and has that short swing so if anyone can do it, he can."

After lending relief, Swarzak unavailable for Twins

BOSTON -- Reliever Anthony Swarzak turned in another strong effort Monday night against the Red Sox, throwing three scoreless innings, but he isn't available for Tuesday's game, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.

Swarzak was able to keep the Twins in the game, as he pitched the eighth, ninth and 10th innings in Minnesota's eventual 6-5 loss in 11.

"It was really important but the worst part about it is that he can't go three innings tonight -- he's going to have to sit out a day or two," Gardenhire said. "But those were huge innings last night. Any time you have one of those extra-inning affairs you need someone who can eat up those innings, and he came in last night with a tie game and threw the ball good and gave us a chance."

Swarzak who opened the season on the 15-day disabled list with broken ribs stemming from a horseplay incident in late January, has fared well in a long relief role this year. The right-hander has a 2.37 ERA with 15 strikeouts and three walks in 19 innings.

"I just want to contribute, no matter what situation I'm in," said Swarzak, who has a career 4.85 ERA in parts of four seasons with the Twins. "It's about consistency for me this year. It's been my nemesis in the past. So I'm working on staying even keel this year."

Swarzak said he enjoys his role as a multi-inning stopper -- he's gone more than one inning in all eight of his appearances -- and hopes to keep it going.

"I'm happy with where my season is heading and where I'm at right now," Swarzak said. "But as a whole group, we're better than what we've shown. We've lost a lot of close ballgames. I think we have the ability to win those types of ballgames, and we're going to in the near future."

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.