– Righthander Matt Belisle entered Saturday with a 4.71 ERA. That doesn’t scream “reliable reliever.” But he is on a run of 13⅔ consecutive scoreless innings.

And a look deeper into his season shows that a few really bad outings have overshadowed some steady work.

Belisle has given up 18 of the 22 earned runs off him in four outings: five in two-thirds of an inning April 26 at Texas; six in one-third of an inning May 7 against Boston; three in one-third of an inning on May 29 against Houston; and four in two-thirds of an inning on June 11 at San Francisco.

Take away those two innings of work (81.00 ERA), and Belisle has a 0.90 ERA.

That makes the 37-year-old somewhat valuable on the field in addition to his off-field mentoring. The challenge for Twins manager Paul Molitor is how much they can use Belisle. If he throws more than 20 pitches an outing, they try to give him two days off. He threw 18 Friday, so it will be interesting to see whether Belisle is an option Sunday.

“As we acquire data on our guys we have tried to pay a little more attention to their performance related to their status,” Molitor said, “whether it is limited or fresher. We try to category each guy each day.

“We have seen it bode well for him by spreading him out a little bit.”

Gray out, Cotton in

As trade talks involving Oakland righthander Sonny Gray heated up Saturday, the Athletics decided to scratch him from his scheduled start on Sunday in the series finale vs. the Twins. The Twins know how to read, so they didn’t bat an eye.

“Obviously, something is in the mix there,” Molitor said, “So we are just going to have to make the adjustment that we have to as we face up against [Jharel] Cotton.

Gray has been rumored in trades with the Yankees, Dodgers and Cubs.

Cotton, a righthander, started against the Twins on May 4 at Target Field, giving up three runs over six innings in a game Oakland won 8-5.

Buxton to San Diego

Outfielder Byron Buxton was 2-for-4 with an RBI on Saturday in his second rehabilitation game for Class AAA Rochester. He was pulled after getting an infield single in the seventh, but not for injury reasons.

Buxton is 4-for-8 in two rehab games at Toledo. If he doesn’t have any setbacks, he will rejoin the Twins on Tuesday when it opens a two-game series in San Diego against the Padres.

“I want to see two more healthy games,” Molitor said before Saturday’s game. “But [Friday] night was good. The medical was good, postgame.”

Buxton was about ready to come off the DL on Tuesday against the Dodgers when he came down with a migraine. That pushed his time out of the lineup to about two weeks, so the club decided to have him play some games at Rochester to help him regain some sharpness and make sure the migraines didn’t return.

Molitor said he plans on returning Buxton to center field. The next decision will be what to do with rookie Zack Granite, who, after a slow start, has picked it up at the plate while showing a penchant for taking good at-bats, including a two-run single Saturday at Oakland. His one gaffe was a throw to first base in the eighth inning Wednesday at Los Angeles — with no one there to catch the ball, an error that led to the tying run in a game the Twins lost.

“He’s stepped in here and he’s given us good at-bats,” Molitor said. “He’s gotten his fair share of hits, particularly of late, the past seven, eight days. No matter what happens, this has been a nice first step for him.”

Etc.

• Lefthander Glen Perkins, in his first appearance for Class A Fort Myers on Saturday, gave up one earned run over two-thirds of an inning on two hits while striking out two. He struck out the first and third hitters he faced but gave up hits to the second and fourth batters before being removed. He threw 22 pitches. The three-time All-Star closer is in the final stages of rehab from shoulder surgery last year to repair a torn labrum.

• Lefthander Hector Santiago (upper thoracic back pain) started for Rochester on Saturday. In three innings, he gave up one run on two hits and three walks with four strikeouts.