Let's get one thing straight for starters, OK? I'm not going to be the one who will question how badly Joe Mauer is hurt. Some of the nasty comments that started with the first announcement that he'd left last Sunday's game with back spasms are from the place in Internet hell where the all-seeing-but-unknowing reside and make me feel the need to shower after reading. There are enough valid Mauercentric issues to debate in which cases can be made for all sides.
I'm writing this after a trip to a sports medicine place Friday morning. Because of the NFL draft and a couple of other things that are current increasing the volume of work in the "A" job, my mousing hand was bothering me enough that I figured I should get it checked out. It wasn't a huge deal, but I'm sure you understand: Check something small before it becomes bigger. I had X-rays and saw the doc and he delivered a less-than-dire diagnosis.
I'm not going to share it with you, beyond calling it Unilateral Hand Weakness.
Back to Mauer: There's enough blame to go around on this one. The Twins missed a prime chance to move on from some of their errant personnel ways. What if the Twins had told Mauer: "Joe let's give this a couple of days and then, if you can't play, we'll put you on the disabled list so you can heal." Yes, there would have been some ugly chatter but first basemen do get hurt. (See Killebrew, Harmon.)
In recent years, the Twins have let the day-to-day thing drag on and on to the point that I have interpreted "day to day" as meaning an eventual trip to the disabled list. (See Willingham, Josh.) During Thursday's loss -- which will be remembered as the afternoon of the one-man bench and a lineup that would get hooted at during spring training -- there was chatter that Willingham, now out for more than a month, could be transferred to the 60-day disabled list to help the Twins through their current roster problems. That's a lot of days, by any reckoning.
And there was this report on Oswaldo Arcia, who hurt his hand and wrist during the first week of the season. If you don't want to click, it says the Twins planned to rest Arcia for a few days "so it's possible he might not return until at least Wednesday, April 9."
Today is the one-month anniversary of that diagnosis, which seemed pretty glum at the time considering the injury was thought to be pretty minor. Arcia was back in action at Class AAA Rochester on April 26, but scuttled the Twins' plans to call him up this week when he came to the ballpark in Rochester complaining of "stiffness."
So if Mauer goes on the disabled list during the Detroit series, I won't be shocked. If he doesn't, I'll be happily surprised. The bigger point here is that the Twins have lost credibility in their proclamations about player health. The point is not that I'm expecting them to share ever detail. If the Twins wanted to call the thing that haunted Mauer "bilateral leg weakness" a few years back, so be it. (I'm assuming that would be a lower body injury in the NHL.)
The point is that I expect the Twins to have a better handle of what's going on with the health of their players and to err on the side of telling them, "Dude, if you can't play, we'll sit you down for a spell and get somebody else." That's not a bad way to set a tone when it comes to roster management.
And as long as I'm on the topic of roster management, this 14-pitcher thing -- one of the contributors to Thursday's Florimon-only bench -- has me kind of puzzled. Gardy brought in Michael Tonkin to pitch an inning of relief Thursday. It was the first time he'd pitched since the previous Thursday, when the crisis alert was sounded after the doubleheader with the Dodgers. Anthony Swarzak pitched a bit Thursday after making only one appearance since that doubleheader.
That alone should debunk the need for 14 pitchers, along with the fact that Caleb Thielbar had pitched to only five batters since April 25 before coming in Thursday. I'm just not getting it, and I suspect I'm not going solo there. Gardy should have been able to do more than throw up his hands in frustration over Mauer's back and Sam Fuld's concussion.
Going into Detroit, which has the best record in baseball along with aces Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer ready to pitch the next two games, the Twins still have 14 pitchers and three shortstops on the roster. Great, huh? I'm glad I have the Wild and a college graduation to distract me this weekend. (And just so you know, despite my Unilateral Hand Weakness diagnosis, I'll be back in the Web chair at startribune.com on Sunday for Game 5 of the Stanley Cup playoffs.)
Seriously, here's the deal: I don't expect the Twins to me totally honest with you and me. I do expect them to be totally honest with themselves.