4/26/2014 6:30 P.M. ET
Gardenhire willing to give struggling starters more time
By Rhett Bollinger / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- After signing Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes and Mike Pelfrey to a combined $84 million worth of deals in the offseason, the Twins hoped their rotation would be improved in 2014.
But so far, that simply hasn't been the case, as Twins starters have combined to post a 6.32 ERA that ranks second-worst in the Majors entering Saturday's game against the Tigers. It's more than a run worse than last season, when the rotation posted a Major League-worst 5.26 ERA.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire acknowledged the rotation's struggles, but he said it's too early to make any sweeping changes.
"We've got our starters and we like them, but we also need results," Gardenhire said. "We think these guys are going to be OK. We're hoping they're going to be OK as we go along here. Making adjustments to the rotation, I wish it was that easy. You have to give them a little bit of time here. You don't want to jump the gun."
Gardenhire said he's confident based on their track records that Twins starters will get better as the season goes along. But he also said the Twins are concerned about the subpar outings by their starters. Reliever Samuel Deduno would likely be the top option to join the rotation if a change is made, but Gardenhire said he wants to give his starters a few more chances to turn it around.
"They're here for a reason," Gardenhire said. "Hopefully they'll get rolling and we won't have to have this conversation. But I understand the concern, because we're concerned, too. We need more innings out of our starters, and no one knows it better than our starters."
Plouffe pulled from game with triceps contusion
MINNEAPOLIS -- Third baseman Trevor Plouffe left Saturday's 5-3 win over the Tigers in the seventh inning with a left triceps contusion. He's day to day.
Plouffe was hit by a pitch on his left arm on a 91-mph fastball from reliever Jose Ortega in the fourth inning, but he remained in the game. It turned out to be important for the Twins, as he laced a go-ahead two-run single back up the middle in the fifth off reliever Phil Coke.
But Plouffe was eventually removed from the game in the top of the seventh, as Eduardo Escobar moved over from shortstop to third base and Pedro Florimon came in at short.
"It got me right above the bone, which is pretty fortunate," Plouffe said. "But it was pretty solid."
Plouffe said he could really feel it on two check swings during his at-bat in the fifth, but he was still able to come through with what proved to be the game-winning single.
"I had some adrenaline going," Plouffe said. "But bending my arm was tough, and checking up on those two swings was when I really felt it. But I was able to get through it and when I got my arms extended, I was OK."
Plouffe said he remains hopeful he'll be back in the lineup Sunday, but it depends on how it will react overnight.
"I want to be in there, absolutely, but we'll see how it goes tonight," Plouffe said. "If I just try to move it around, I think I'll be OK."
RBI leader Colabello gives Mauer a rest at first
MINNEAPOLIS -- Having served as third-base coach with the Twins starting in 1991, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire had a chance to see the final five seasons of Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett's career up close.
So when Chris Colabello broke Puckett's club record for RBIs in the month of April with his 27th RBI in Friday's 10-6 loss to the Tigers, Gardenhire realized how impressive it was for Colabello to top Puckett's mark that was set in 1994.
"It's pretty impressive," Gardenhire said. "He's got his name sitting next to one of the best players I ever saw. So that's a pretty cool thing. That's pretty special."
Colabello was back in his usual spot as cleanup hitter on Saturday, but he made his third start of the season at first base to give Joe Mauer a break. Mauer made the start at designated hitter. Both players have started all 23 of Minnesota's games this season.
"He's a first baseman, so it's natural for him," Gardenhire said. "He did that a lot in Spring Training, and he'll do it here to give a break to people. It just works out here. Joe has been on the field an awful lot so it gives him a little refresher here, but he's still in the lineup."
Willingham nearly ready to start swinging
MINNEAPOLIS -- Outfielder Josh Willingham said his left wrist is continuing to feel better, and that he remains hopeful he'll be able to swing the bat by early next week.
Willingham, who is on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 7 with a small fracture in his wrist, will need a rehab assignment once he's deemed healthy enough to play.
"It's feeling a lot better," Willingham said. "It's a little point-tender, so once that goes away I can hit. As soon as that tenderness goes away, I'll start swinging."
Willingham originally injured his wrist on April 6, when he was hit by a fastball on the wrist by Indians starter Justin Masterson. Willingham was hitting .294/.435/.353 with a double and an RBI in six games before the injury.