With the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline approaching, Twins General Manager Terry Ryan wasn't ready to announce any clearance sales Wednesday.
The Twins climbed within 7 1/2 games of first place before losing to the White Sox 3-2 on Tuesday and 12-5 on Wednesday at Target Field.
Outwardly, at least, Ryan doesn't want to sound as if he's lost all hope this season, even if this is a crucial time to improve the franchise for 2013 and beyond.
"I'm trying to be realistic, but I'm also trying to make sure I do the right thing for the present and future of this organization, which is a tough balancing act," Ryan said. "We've been in this predicament before. This was exactly what happened last year. We got on a little bit of a roll in July. It looked like it was coming together. And, of course, it came apart in August and September."
After falling 16 1/2 games back early last year, the Twins were sitting six games back from July 27 to July 30. Then-GM Bill Smith decided not to trade pending free agents Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel, among others, and the Twins wound up finishing 63-99.
"That's easy to look at in hindsight and say, 'Oh, we should have done a lot of things,' " Ryan said. "If we would have done a lot of things, the fan base would have told us that we're raising the white flag."
A July tease can be the worst thing that happens to a team in need of a major overhaul. Emotions get torn and opportunities are lost.
Wednesday's humiliation on a muggy, 90-degree afternoon should remind Twins fans how far this team has to go.
Nick Blackburn (4-5) had another rough start, giving up six runs over five innings. The crushing blows were Adam Dunn's three-run homer in the fifth inning followed by a solo shot from Alex Rios.
That was more than enough support for White Sox lefthander Chris Sale (9-2), who allowed two runs over seven innings to keep the American League lead in ERA at 2.27.
"I can't begin to explain how frustrated I am right now," said Blackburn, whose ERA is 7.74. "The guys have to score seven or eight runs to get me a win. That's not good. I'm going five innings every outing -- six innings, maybe. Something's got to change."
The scary thing is Blackburn is the only member of this year's original starting rotation under contract for next year. Jason Marquis is with the Padres. Francisco Liriano, Carl Pavano and Scott Baker are potential free agents.
Who will fill these holes? Scott Diamond is starting to establish himself as a rotation fixture. Liam Hendriks, Brian Duensing and P.J. Walters have potential. And nearly 10 months removed from Tommy John elbow surgery, Kyle Gibson hopes to pitch in a minor league game by July 10.
But this is the window when Ryan can work his old magic, using the team's best trade chips to add to his thin list of 2013 pitching options. It doesn't help that Pavano and closer Matt Capps are out because of shoulder injuries. But Liriano is starting to entice teams again; that's a good sign. And Ryan might have to be bold, trading a player he'd truly love to keep long-term -- such as Denard Span or Josh Willingham -- to stockpile young talent.
Asked if Twins fans are open to rebuilding, Ryan said: "Some are and some aren't. Some don't ever want to see a guy traded. It doesn't matter where you are in the standings, if he's their favorite player, they don't have any interest in him going, no matter what his contractual situation is.
"I can't go on that barometer. We've just got to do what's best for the organization."
Joe Christensen firstname.lastname@example.org