HOUSTON -- Yohan Pino makes his 10th career start for the Twins tonight in Miniute Maid Park, and it's an awkward one. If everything goes according to plan, it seems, tonight is also his final one for awhile.
Ricky Nolasco will throw a bullpen session at Target Field on Wednesday, and if he reports no problems, he'll probably start Friday's series opener against the Royals. That means one current member of the rotation has to go, and, well, it looks like Pino is the most logical candidate. A no-hitter tonight, or a complete-game shutout could change that, I suppose, but the Twins are committed to giving Trevor May a few starts to show what he can do, the other four spots are spoken for, and at 30 years old, Pino isn't considered a longterm solution.
I asked Ron Gardenhire if he would consider using six starting pitchers while it all sorts itself out. "I won't say there's no chance," he said, "but there's no chance. Not right this second, no."
He's obviously in a strange spot, too; it's probably not easy to send a guy to the mound knowing that he'll have to be optioned back to Class AAA Rochester soon. And Pino has had some good outings. Two runs over seven innings in his debut was a high point, and he does have three quality starts among his nine so far. If May doesn't bounce back in his next start or two from his disastrous debut in Oakland, Pino might be a handy backup plan. And it wouldn't surprise me at all if Pino is the "26th man" the Twins are allowed to activate for the doubleheader against Detroit coming up on Aug. 23.
But the likely pitching rotation against KC this weekend (not the Twins' "official" rotation, which won't include Nolasco until he's cleared to return tomorrow) is Nolasco, Phil Hughes, Tommy Milone and May. Subject to change, of course.
Oswaldo Arcia returns to action tonight after missing three games with a sore lower back. "He came in today and said he's fine, great," Gardenhire said. "He really hasn't done a lot of defensive work, but he comes in saying he's fine, I want him in the outfield."
It's 95 degrees outside, the roof is closed, and here are tonight's lineups: