Phil Miller covered three seasons of Twins baseball, but that was at a different ballpark for a different newspaper. Now Miller returns to the baseball beat after joining the Star Tribune as the Gopher football writer in 2010, and he won't miss the dingy dome for a minute. In addition to the Twins and Gophers, Miller covered the Utah Jazz and the NBA for six years at The Salt Lake Tribune.
A handful of extras from the Twins' fourth straight win on Sunday:
HISTORY YOU DON'T WANT: By all accounts, Oswaldo Arcia seems to be holding up well during one of the longest slumps in Twins history. But it can't be easy.
Arcia is 2-for-43 with 17 strikeouts since June 6, and it's gotten even worse in the past week. The Venezuelan slugger was 0-for-4 on Saturday, including two strikeouts, extending his hitless skid to 31 straight at-bats.
That brings him within range of the longest slump in Twins history -- an 0-for-39 blanking in 1978.
THE FIVE AND DIVE: Phil Hughes was upset with himself, but also at umpire D.J. Reyburn, when he had trouble throwing strikes during Chicago's five-run third. But Gardenhire was much angrier.
Reyburn ejected Gardenhire for yelling from the dugout, so the manager came out, kicked dirt on the plate, and shouted briefly at the ump. It was Gardenhire's 69th ejection, and second this year.
"Obviously, I didn't want him to get thrown out of the game, but it's good to know he's behind you," Hughes said. "I was frustrated in the moment. We can laugh at it now, but in the moment, I wasn't a happy camper. ... I guess we both went five-and-dive today."
BAM-BAM-BAM BURTON: The Twins don't designate a substitute for closer Glen Perkins on days when he's unavailable due to heavy workload, but calling upon Jared Burton on Sunday was an easy call, acting manager Terry Steinbach said. "He has some experience at it. It's a situation where he's been there before," Steinbach said.
And it was not, Steinbach also insisted, a reflection of the team's confidence in Casey Fien, after the setup man allowed back-to-back home runs to lose a game in Boston on Wednesday. "Absoutely not. I would be confident putting Fiener back in the ninth," Steinbach said. "It's more of a situation where, Burtie has some experience, and he was more rested."
Burton collected his eighth career save, and first since May 30 of last season, with a 1-2-3 ninth. Said catcher Kurt Suzuki, "He came in and bam-bam-bam. The last three outs, it takes a special person to get those. It's not easy."
STURDY PEN: The blown saves by Casey Fien and Glen Perkins got the most attention this week. But the rest of the bullpen, the middle guys who form a bridge to the closer, has been terrific over the past seven games, going 15 innings without allowing an earned run.
The Twins close another brief homestand today and head for the West Coast, where they will open a three-game set with the Angels on Tuesday. But not all 25 players on today's roster figure to make the trip.
Manager Ron Gardenhire said before today's game that the team is discussing reducing the bullpen to seven relievers, instead of the eight they are carrying now, in order to add another position player to the bench. That means somebody faces demotion, trade or release after today's game, though Gardenhire is obviously not ready to say who's being moved.
There are a lot of ways this can go, and it appears to be a difficult decision, so it will be interesting to see what Terry Ryan's chooses to do. Closer Glen Perkins, setup man Casey Fien and left-handed specialist Brian Duensing are obviously safe, but the other five have varying reasons to worry. Jared Burton has the highest ERA on the current roster, though he's also the highest paid and has been pitching better lately. Matt Guerrier has pitched very well, but he's 35 and doesn't figure to have many seasons left; he might interest a contender who needs to upgrade. Anthony Swarzak has been mostly good this year, albeit not as consistent as in 2013, but it's in long relief. Sam Deduno is a starter who couldn't keep his rotation spot; he's not a great fit for the bullpen, unless it's in a role like Swarzak's. And Caleb Thielbar has been good as the second situational lefty and gives Gardenhire flexibility, but he's used so infrequently -- he doesn't yet have 25 innings this season -- that the Twins would be able to absorb his workload.
Deduno, Swarzak, Guerrier and Burton are out of options, further complicating the calculation. There might be some trade interest in one or two of them, but at least a couple would be almost certain to be claimed if the Twins tried to pass them through waivers and assign them to the minors.
Injuries, of course, could easily change the Twins' plans. And there is a game today, after all.
Phil Hughes will start that game and try to keep the bullpen mostly out of it. He's thrown 10 quality starts in his last 11 games.
Here are today's lineups as the Twins go for their first four-game sweep of a series in more than three years, since June 2-5, 2011 in Kansas City. Their last four-game home streak came in the Metrodome, July 12-15, 2007 against Oakland:
De Aza LF
BOSTON -- Eduardo Nunez ran from first to third base a handful of times this morning, and while he said he's OK to play again, it sure didn't look like he was moving at top speed. But he apparently will escape a trip to the disabled list, though I'd be surprised if Ron Gardenhire was comfortable with putting him in the lineup for another couple of days.
Gardenhire shook up his lineup for the series finale in Fenway Park, in part to give some of the reserves some playing time and in part in hopes of producing a run or two. Pedro Florimon gets his first start since May 7, and Danny Santana is back in the outfield. The Twins have scored just one run in Fenway during this series, and things get no easier today against John Lackey.
Here are the lineups for the 12:35 CT start:
Three quick leftovers, with tomorrow's day game only 13 hours away:
KEEP ME IN, COACH: Ron Gardenhire sent his pitching coach to the mound in the eighth inning to tell him to walk David Ortiz. He was surprised by the response.
"We were going to walk Ortiz, and we were going to go after Naps [Mike Napoli], but Phil said 'I'd just as soon take my chances and make David chase,' " Gardenhire said. "It shocked me when Andy came back in said he wants to pitch to him."
How'd that conversation go? "He said, 'I want this guy,' and I said, 'well, we've got a righty on deck,' " Anderson said. "But he said, 'No, I want this guy, I can get him. ... I love it. I love that attitude."
Napoli was 6-for-15 against Hughes, Ortiz 10-for-28. Still, "I really wanted to go after Ortiz," Hughes said, "and I really don't like walking guys either."
No kidding. Tuesday's loss was Hughes' third straight start without a walk, and ninth in his last 10 starts.
So Hughes went after Big Papi. Three pitches later, Ortiz reached for a cutter off the plate and flew out harmlessly to left.
SUZUKI HOT, ARCIA NOT: A couple of hitters are going in opposite directions near the bottom of the Twins' lineup. Kurt Suzuki singled in the fifth inning, giving him hits in nine of his last 10 games. He's batting .371 over that span, with two doubles.
Oswaldo Arcia, meanwhile, still can't get out of the spiral he's in. His 0-for-4 on Tuesday included two strikeouts. He's now 2-for-32 since June 6, with 15 whiffs.
INCONCLUSIVE EVIDENCE: The Twins got a break on a call that was inconclusive on replay. Dustin Pedroia hit what looked like a two-run homer in the eighth inning, but it bounced off the top of the Green Monster and back onto the field. Josh Willingham got the ball back into the infield quickly, and Pedroia was caught in a rundown. He avoided Brian Dozier's tag, but was called out for leaving the baseline. The Red Sox challenged, arguing that Pedroia's ball was touched by a fan, making it either a ground-rule double or a home run. Replays, however, could not establish whether the fan had made contact, and the play was allowed to stand.
BOSTON -- One roster mystery has been solved, but the solution merely prompts another.
Yohan Pino, whose 1.92 ERA in 14 appearances (seven starts) for Class AAA Rochester leads the International League, will be promoted in the Twins in time to start Thursday's game in Target Field against the White Sox. Pino, a 30-year-old Venezuelan righthander who will be making his major-league debut, takes the place of Samuel Deduno, who is being returned to the bullpen for now.
"He's been pitching fantastic, along with three or four other guys down there," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Throwing the ball very well, great ERA, the whole package. You could have had your choices down there and this is who [the front office] decided they want to give a shot to. We'll see how it goes. Exciting for him, first time in the big leagues. Pretty cool."
The Twins can move Mike Pelfrey to the 60-day disabled list in order to make room for Pino on the 40-man roster. Getting him on the 25-man active roster on Thursday will require another roster move, though -- and manager Ron Gardenhire offered no hints as to what that move might be.
Would they send Pedro Florimon back to Rochester? Gardenhire said he doesn't want to play with a short bench, as he is already while Eduardo Nunez tries to come back from a hamstring injury. Would they drop a reliever? The only relievers with ERAs above 4.00 are Jared Burton, who has pitched well in some critical situations lately, and Anthony Swarzak, a bullpen-saver who leads the Twins in relief innings pitched.
"A roster move will come accordingly on Thursday," Gardenhire said, "if everything goes according to plan."
The move didn't seem to come as a surprise to Deduno, who had given up 18 runs in 16 innings over his last four starts, a 10.13 ERA. "I'm a little disappointed a little bit because I wanted the ball again," said the Dominican righthander. "But I'm still happy because I'm still here. I want to make adjustments, because when I was in the bullpen I was doing well."
Meanwhile, the Twins face lefthander Jon Lester tonight, counting on their most effective pitcher, Phil Hughes, to break their three-game losing streak. The lineups:
Leftovers from a 1-0 game that still took 2 hours, 45 minutes:
ORTIZ IS HUMAN: David Ortiz started chatting with Kendrys Morales in center field before the game, and before long, Danny Santana and Oswaldo Arcia had drifted over, too. Ortiz held court for about 10 minutes, gesturing with gusto to make his points. But during the game, Ortiz was far less noticeable, going 0-for-3 with a pair of groundouts. He did smash a Kevin Correia pitch to the deepest part of the ballpark in the sixth inning, but Sam Fuld caught it with his back against the wall. Fuld smiled at the Twins' narrow escape, and Ortiz threw up his hands in disgust. Call it a major victory for the Twins, who were hammered by Ortiz -- 8 for 14, four home runs -- in three games last month in Target Field.
YOU HAVE VISITORS: With the Rock Cats enjoying an off day, New Britain manager Jeff Smith drove up to Boston to drop in on the Twins' coaching staff. And Kennys Vargas, the mammoth first baseman who already has bashed 12 home runs in Class AA this season, came to the ballpark as well, stopping by the Twins' clubhouse. The 23-year-old Vargas is batting .319 with a .528 slugging average, so it won't be long before he's actually dressing in that same clubhouse.
NO WALL BALL: Ron Gardenhire said after the game that "you don't get many of these 1-0 games here." He probably didn't know how right he was. Monday's loss was the 296th time the teams have met in Fenway Park -- and only the fifth time that the Twins have lost 1-0. The last one, the only one managed by Gardenhire, came in 2007. Minnesota, by the way, has won only two 1-0 games here, and none in the past 30 years. "Normally it's wall-ball here," Gardenhire said. "We kept wondering when someone was going to put up a five-spot and break it open."
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