The Twins required 12 innings and eight pitchers to defeat Detroit 6-5 in Game 163 of the 2009 regular season. One night later, they would open the playoffs in New York against the Yankees.
The playoff roster was due at 10 a.m. that day, meaning any final decision on the 25 players would be made on the charter flight to New York.
This was the Twins' fifth playoff appearance in the decade and they went with 12 pitchers for the first time. This was not a reaction to that long extra game with the Tigers, but rather this fact:
There wasn't another position player the Twins wanted to add to the bench, other than infielders Alexi Casilla and Brendan Harris and catchers Mike Redmond and Jose Morales.
"That's not the preferred situation," manager Ron Gardenhire said Saturday. "Really, I haven't looked at it [for the 2010 playoffs] -- haven't even written the names down on a piece of paper. We're not going to worry about it until we clinch something.
"But, yes, the way we would like to go when possible is 11 [pitchers] and 14 [position players]. And I do know that this year there are some options for a fifth guy on the bench."
Prior to last October, the Twins went with 11 pitchers in 2002, 10 in 2003 and 2004, and 11 in 2006. These were the starting situations:
2002: Brad Radke, Joe Mays, Eric Milton and Rick Reed made 10 starts in two playoff rounds. Kyle Lohse (31 starts during season) and Johan Santana (14 starts) pitched out of the bullpen.
2003: Santana made two of the four starts vs. the Yankees, with Radke and Lohse getting the others. Kenny Rogers was in bullpen, and not happy about it.
2004: Santana again made two starts against the Yankees, with Radke and Carlos Silva making one apiece. Lohse again was in the bullpen.
2006: Santana, Boof Bonser and Radke (with a stress fracture in his right shoulder) made the three starts in an Oakland sweep. Silva was the remaining option with his 5.94 ERA.
2009: Scott Baker started Game 163 and was set to pitch a fourth game against the Yankees. The Twins didn't get there, getting swept with rookie Brian Duensing, Nick Blackburn and Carl Pavano as the starters.
This time, the options figure to be better than at any time since Gardenhire's first playoff go-round in 2002, when he went with four starters and still had Santana and Lohse in reserve.
Certainly, there isn't a Johan of 2003-07 vintage in this year's group, but there is this intriguing situation:
Kevin Slowey improved his record to 13-6 and lowered his ERA to 4.18 in Saturday's 4-2 victory over Oakland. Scott Baker, 12-9 this season and with 38 victories over the past three seasons, tested his right elbow with another bullpen session and is expected to get a start Tuesday.
Gardenhire would have cried tears of joy to have pitchers with these résumés to pitch Games 2 and 3 in '06, rather than Bonser and a damaged Radke. And he would have repeated that reaction to have Slowey (lost because of a wrist injury) rather than the then-inexperienced Duensing to open against the Yankees last fall.
Now, barring injuries elsewhere, it is unlikely Slowey or Baker will get a playoff start, and more unlikely that both will make an 11-pitcher staff for the playoffs.
The best hint available Saturday was the Twins will go with four starters: Pavano, Francisco Liriano, Blackburn and Duensing. For now, Blackburn's name could be written in pencil, requiring that he add a couple more solid starts to his rebound since late August to retain that spot.
With Blackburn in, that would leave one opening for a long reliever -- meaning either Slowey or Baker. Again, based on health, the other six relievers are set:
Closer Matt Capps, righthanders Jesse Crain, Jon Rauch and Matt Guerrier and lefthanders Brian Fuentes and Jose Mijares.
There have been years when pitchers such as Jeff Manship, Glen Perkins, Randy Flores and Pat Neshek would have slid onto the playoff roster. That won't be the case in an October when either a current 13-game winner (Slowey) or 12-game winner (Baker) could be waiting around to see if there was an ALCS for which he might be needed.
Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on 1500ESPN. firstname.lastname@example.org