8/11/2013 6:04 P.M. ET
Thomas crucial to Twins' outfield setup
By Joey Nowak / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- Guys like Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer would get plenty of nods as the Twins' most valuable pieces, but there may be no one more indispensable in the lineup than Clete Thomas.
Without another true center fielder to back him up -- Darin Mastroianni, the most likely candidate, is on the 60-day disabled list recovering from left ankle surgery in May -- the spot belongs to Thomas. Backup catcher Chris Herrmann, who actually has as many career games in the outfield as he does behind the plate, is currently the team's next-best option.
"I'll let you know when it happens, how important it is [to not have a true backup center fielder]," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Right now, I tend not to think about that stuff. As the game goes along, I know this: Clete won't get pinch-hit for or pinch-ran for. He'll have to take himself out."
Oswaldo Arcia also has experience in the Minors playing center, but he is best suited for a corner-outfield spot. Thomas, too, has appeared in left and right more than center, but he is still experienced in the middle spot. However, his batting average against left-handers is 38 points lower than against righties.
"I don't know if there's anxiety, but you'd like to have more options," assistant general manager Rob Antony said. "When you're facing a tough lefty, it'd be nice to be able to throw Mastro in there and give Clete a day, or be able to mix and match a little more and give Gardy a little more flexibility."
There's more to the situation than simply Mastroianni's health. The 27-year-old, health-wise, is just about ready to return, but he's having trouble hitting in the Minors during his rehab stint. Over 11 Minor League games, he's 5-for-29. This week with Triple-A Rochester, he's 0-for-12 with two runs, two RBIs, one walk and four strikeouts.
Mastroianni is eligible to be activated Thursday.
"I don't think you can take anything for granted," Antony said. "If he goes 0-for-the-rest-of-the-week and he's not swinging the bat at all and doesn't look like he's ready to help us, then he could be optioned. But the main thing is he's healthy right now and we just want him to get some hits and be ready to hit up here."
Utility infielder Carroll dealt to Royals
CHICAGO -- The Twins dealt utility infielder Jamey Carroll to the division-rival Royals on Sunday afternoon in a move that assistant general manager Rob Antony said was more for Carroll than for the betterment of the team.
"As much as anything, this is a deal for Jamey Carroll to go over and join a team that's in a playoff race over there and add his professionalism and experience to that club and give him an opportunity to get into a race," Antony said.
Carroll will fly back to Minneapolis with the Twins on Sunday, before joining the Royals on Monday, when the Twins will make a corresponding move to replace him on the roster. The 39-year-old Carroll was traded for a player to be named or cash.
"I've never had this happen before, so it's obviously a unique feeling," Carroll said. "But at the same time, I'm excited to go to a team that's been playing really well. We've seen that first-hand. I look forward to talking to them and seeing how this comes about and what the situation's going to be."
Antony said there were no talks about Carroll before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, but the Royals have had an eye on Carroll for about a week and saw a need for their club that the utility man could fill.
He's appeared in 59 games for the Twins this season, batting .230 with six doubles and nine RBIs. He went 1-for-4 with a run in Sunday's 5-2 victory over the White Sox, batting second and playing third base. The 12-year veteran has played second base, third base and shortstop this season.
"Like I told him, I was disappointed we weren't better when I was here because when we went and got him, we saw him as a veteran guy that was gonna help some of our veteran guys, and we just haven't pitched well enough," Antony said. "We haven't played well enough. And he handled everything like a pro this year with [Jesus] Florimon and [Brian] Dozier getting the majority of starts up the middle. He's always ready to play."
Carroll was drafted by the Expos in the 14th round of the 1996 First-Year Player Draft, and debuted with the Expos in 2002. He was purchased by the Rockies from the Nationals in February 2006, then traded by the Rockies to the Indians in 2007. He signed with the Dodgers in 2009, then with the Twins after the 2011 season.
The Twins were just in Kansas City this week, dropping two of three. Carroll appeared in two of those games, going 3-for-8, but he likely stood out most for his first career pitching appearance. He threw a scoreless eighth inning in Monday's game.
"Must have been when they knew he was a true utility guy," Antony said. "You can put him anywhere."
Doumit expected to come off concussion DL on time
CHICAGO -- The Twins still expect catcher Ryan Doumit to be able to come off the seven-day disabled list from his concussion when he's eligible to do so next week, consistent with what they said when he was placed on the DL.
He was placed on the DL on Friday, retroactive to Thursday, after leaving Wednesday's game against the Royals with concussion-like symptoms. He said he initially sustained the injury last Sunday against the Astros.
"He'll get re-examined by our doctors when we get home to determine if he's ready to do baseball activities," assistant general manager Rob Antony said before Sunday's series finale against the White Sox. "He hasn't done any of that stuff. But he watched the game in here yesterday and just came back from a long walk, and everything he's done, he hasn't had any side effects."
Doumit, 32, is hitting .244 with nine homers and 44 RBIs in 99 games for the Twins this season. Chris Herrmann and Joe Mauer have handled the catching duties this weekend in Chicago.
"I don't think he really felt he needed to go on [the DL], but he also didn't know he had a concussion," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "So we'll just have to wait until the time's up and then we'll see where he's at. He'll do the impact test and they'll tell me."
Twins piling up strikeouts more than usual
CHICAGO -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has an easy explanation for why his club has been striking out so much recently.
"I thought about that long and hard and I decided that we're not making contact," Gardenhire said, dryly. "Not putting it in play enough, which is causing the strikeouts."
He has an easy solution, too: "Yes, that would be hit the ball. See the ball, hit the ball. I've got good theories on that stuff. I know this about strikeouts: You've got no chance to get a hit when you strike out. No chance at all.
"People are going to strike out, but we've been striking out way too much."
The Twins struck out 36 times over the first three games of this weekend's series against the White Sox. Entering Sunday, they were fifth in baseball (and second in the American League) with 969 strikeouts.
Aaron Hicks, who was recently optioned to Triple-A, shares the team lead (84) with Josh Willingham and, oddly, three-time batting champ Joe Mauer.
"I don't have an explanation for Mauer at all, because he's not a strikeout guy," Gardenhire said.
Justin Morneau trails narrowly with 82. Gardenhire noted that guys like Morneau, Willingham, Oswaldo Arcia and Chris Colabello -- players who predominantly hit for power -- will rack up strikeouts every year. But the skipper also expects them to adjust their approach in RBI situations.
"You're going to have some strikeouts if you drive the baseball," Gardenhire said. "And you can handle a strikeout every once in a while. Situational hitting is more important. There's times when you're trying to drive the ball and a strikeout is OK. But there's times when they're giving you RBIs, infield's back, that you really have to defend. You have to find a way to put the ball in play and get a run in. Those are the times that our guys have to do a little better."