It's a beautiful night for baseball, so maybe Twins fans -- who were lined up early outside the gates for Josh Willingham bobblehead night -- wouldn't mind sticking around Target Field a little longer than normal. Then again, it's one thing if a game is long because there is a lot of action; when it's long because the pitcher is pokey, fans get frustrated.
So do teammates, which is one reason the Twins have emphasized to Mike Pelfrey, tonight's starter against Baltimore in the first game of a nine-game homestand, that pace is important. "We've kind of beat it into his head," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "You don't want [your fielders] standing there. When the pitcher is throwing the ball, you're paying attention. Everything is better."
The Twins already have played five nine-inning games this season that dragged on for more than 3 hours, 30 minutes, and Pelfrey has started three of them. In part, it's because he is trying to work his way back from elbow reconstruction surgery a year ago, and he's being deliberate about making sure his mechanics are in order. But he's also a bit of a slow worker at heart, so the Twins' philosophy is new to him.
"He understands it. He's trying," Gardenhire said. "He's definitely making an effort."
Gardenhire's aversion to slow pitchers dates back to his playing days, when he was coming up the the same New York Mets system that Pelfrey did.
"I played behind Ron Darling," Gardenhire said, when asked about his own experience with dawdling pitchers as a shortstop prospect in the 1970s and '80s. "[Second baseman] Wally Backman and I would scream at him at Triple-A. We would scream at him -- 'You're killing us.' "
The Yale graduate, though, was unmoved by his infielders' pleas.
"Ronnie was way too intellectual for me and Wally. We know he called us something, but he was way above us," Gardenhire said with a laugh. "He had nasty stuff, but it was like he wanted to invent things out there."
Pelfrey, who allowed only one run over six innings in his last start Sunday in Cleveland, will be facing a team that moved into first place last night. In fact, the Orioles are the third first-place team the Twins have faced in their last four series; they knocked the Red Sox into a first-place tie with Baltimore and New York by taking three of four games in Fenway Park.
The Twins arrived in Minneapolis at 2:15 a.m. last night, so Joe Mauer is getting the night off from catching. Oswaldo Arcia, the team's hottest hitter, is back in right, sidelining Chris Parmelee for the third straight game. Pedro Florimon is out of the lineup due to a slight hamstring strain, but the Twins don't think it's anything serious. And Jamey Carroll replaces Brian Dozier at second base because he is 6-for-15 (.400) with four walks against Baltimore starter Jason Hammel.
Jason Hammel RHP
Mike Pelfrey RHP