9/21/2013 5:37 P.M. ET
Gardy wants young arms to work on offspeed pitches
By Andrew Pentis / Special to MLB.com
OAKLAND -- With eight games remaining on their schedule after Saturday, the Twins are running out of opportunities for their young starters to show their stuff. Manager Ron Gardenhire wants to see the group do one thing in particular down the stretch: throw curveballs and sliders with confidence and consistency.
"That's important for all of our young pitchers, to use it," Gardenhire said. "That's the most important thing for a pitcher to understand: You have to spin the ball, you have to work on these pitches, or they're not going to get better. The only way to do that is to get into the game and use 'em.
"The miles between [Triple-A] Rochester and Minnesota, breaking balls aren't making the trip."
That is especially the case for Saturday starter Pedro Hernandez and right-hander Liam Hendriks, who is the first candidate should Minnesota need a spot starter the rest of the way, the skipper said.
"His last outing he had a lively fastball, but that's not the pitch, though, we need him to control," Gardenhire said of Hendriks' start on Monday, in which he was charged with seven runs in two-thirds of an inning.
The skipper said Hendriks threw about 15 sliders straight down into the dirt, causing debate on the bench over whether the pitches were breaking balls or changeups.
"It was nothing. It looked like a changeup going straight down," Gardenhire said. "That's a mechanical thing, and he wasn't able to make an adjustment. He's got to be able to use all of his pitches. Up here, he hasn't. Down there [in Rochester], he has."
Willingham out of lineup, available off bench
OAKLAND -- Veteran slugger Josh Willingham was out of the Twins' starting lineup on Saturday with a sore left foot but was deemed available off the bench. Manager Ron Gardenhire said he had already decided to play the versatile Chris Parmelee in the outfield against the A's anyway.
Parmelee had a rough Friday night in the field while playing first base. His inability to corral third baseman Eduardo Escobar's low throw with two outs in the fifth inning allowed three runs to score.
"Rather have him knock it down," Gardenhire said. "He knows how to catch the ball, but there's been some funny plays over there.
"Maybe it's because he's been bouncing back and forth," Gardenhire added of Parmelee's playing time between first base and right field, "but he's been in the wrong place on some relays [at first]."
Rookie Oswaldo Arcia assumed Willingham's slot in left field. Willingham's bat would be handy in a pinch-hitting situation. Since 2012, he has hit .396 (19-for-48) with seven home runs and 17 RBIs in 14 games versus his former club.
Arcia has room to improve in outfield
OAKLAND -- When Twins manager Ron Gardenhire sees Oswaldo Arcia in right field, he sees a talented player who is still learning his position.
That was the case when Gardenhire saw Arcia circle Daric Barton's hit in the second inning of Friday's game against the A's, then pick up his head as he attempted to field the ball. To Gardenhire's eye, Arcia was already thinking about showing off his strong arm. Barton reached third and Josh Reddick scored on the play.
"It's a double, and the guy's not going to score if we just catch it," Gardenhire said Saturday morning. "That's understanding that we're not throwing anybody out there. All we have to do is catch the ball and get it back into the infield. Thinking too much."
The error was Arcia's second in 93 games.
"He can play left. He can play right. He's got things to learn on," Gardenhire said of the 22-year-old Venezuela native. "There's times where he's moving really good and other times where he looks a little sluggish.
"I have a left fielder in [Josh] Willingham. That's why we'd like to see him in right."
While Garcia was slated to play left on Saturday, Friday night's defensive effort was an anomaly. Earlier in the second inning, he lost a ball off Derek Norris' bat in the lights at O.co Coliseum. Norris reached second with a double.
"That happens in some of these ballparks. The other [play] could have been handled a lot better," Gardenhire said. "The biggest thing with outfielders is not rushing."
Twins get good report on prospect Meyer
OAKLAND -- Alex Meyer, Minnesota's No. 3 prospect, made his second instructional league appearance on Saturday.
Twins general manager Terry Ryan liked the latest report on Meyer, who missed nearly three months of the Minor League season due to an injured throwing shoulder. The 23-year-old right-hander had returned to Double-A New Britain for two starts in late August.
"I'm not a huge velocity guy, but he's running it up there pretty good," Ryan said before the Twins-A's game at O.co Coliseum. "The best thing I can tell you is he's starting to use his changeup.
"That's one of the things we tried to emphasize in the short amount of time we had him on the mound this spring. If he wants to be one of those big-time starters -- if he can develop that change -- he has a chance to be [one], because he's got the fastball and he's got the curve. And he's got the change -- all we got to do is make sure we polish it up."
Ryan said the Twins don't keep statistics of instructional league games, even internally. The numbers, in this case anyway, don't matter.
"He threw well," Ryan said. "More importantly, he's 100 percent.
"You can't get too excited about results in instructional league. I will be more attentive to what goes on statistically out there in the Arizona Fall League."
Meyer is one of seven Twins farmhands heading to Arizona. That group is led by the organization's No. 1 prospect, outfielder Byron Buxton.
The 6-foot-9 Meyer compiled a 3.21 ERA in 13 starts for New Britain this season, his first since Minnesota acquired him from Washington for outfielder Denard Span last November. Employing mainly his fastball and power slider, he struck out 84 batters in 70 innings.
• Third baseman Trevor Plouffe was back in the starting lineup and batting third on Saturday. Plouffe missed Friday's game after tweaking his left wrist. Gardenhire, who hadn't known the minor injury dated back to June, said he gets a report from trainers with all medical updates.
"He's been swinging great," the skipper said. "It's a non-issue if I don't know about it."
• Gardenhire said Friday's losing pitcher, left-hander Andrew Albers, will get one more start, so long as the Twins don't decide he's already hit his innings limit for the year. Albers has pitched 186 2/3 innings between Triple-A and the Majors in 2013, up from 103 in 2012.
• There wasn't a lot to smile about during the Twins' 11-0 loss on Friday, but one play caused Gardenhire to grin: Arcia's infield double when three Athletics ran to cover first base in the ninth inning.
"I never got a hit like that," said Gardenhire, who is three victories shy of 1,000 for his managerial career. "I could have been a .240 hitter with hits like that."
During his playing career, Gardenhire batted .232 across five seasons with the New York Mets.
• Right-handed reliever Anthony Swarzak left the team before Friday's game because of a personal family issue in Minnesota, the team announced on Saturday.
Andrew Pentis is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.