Twins' season hangs in the balance this weekend

Three games against American League Central rival Cleveland could label the team's course for the final two months.

CLEVELAND - The Twins' pivotal weekend series against the Indians at Jacobs Field could help answer the biggest question surrounding the club: Will it buy or sell before Tuesday's nonwaiver trade deadline?

The Twins began Thursday 91/2 games behind Detroit in the AL Central and eight games behind the Indians in the AL wild-card race. A big weekend could encourage them to keep shopping for hitters.

"That is not something I'm going to let get out for public consumption," Ryan said Thursday when asked of his plans. "I'll be watching the team closely. I'll be very interested to see how we do against Cleveland. This is a huge series for us. I'll be very interested to see how we respond after a tough series [in Toronto]."

That suggests he's still looking for offensive help, but if the Twins extend their stretch of awful play through the weekend, he could look into deals with 2008 and beyond in mind. Whether that means trading soon-to-be free agents such as Torii Hunter and Luis Castillo before Tuesday's 3 p.m. deadline remains to be seen.

There have been indications that the club is prepared to offer Hunter, a two-time All-Star in his 11th year, a contract extension after the season.

Larry Reynolds, Hunter's agent, said Thursday that he hasn't spoken with Ryan lately and is not worried about a possible deadline deal. Hunter does have a limited no-trade clause that blocks deals to six teams.

"Anything can happen," Reynolds said. "Am I expecting [a trade]? No. Will I be surprised if it happens? Not really."

Ryan has remained in the Twin Cities this week, manning the phones and being near all his available resources as the club searches for offense. Here are some recent developments:

• The Twins remain interested in Tampa Bay infielder Ty Wigginton, who hit his 16th homer on Thursday. Wigginton, who can play second or third, also has drawn interest from the Mets, Yankees, Dodgers and Red Sox.

The Devil Rays have asked for prized righthander Matt Garza for Wiggington, but the Twins feel that Garza is a legitimate top-of-the-rotation prospect and won't deal him. Devil Rays scout Lee Elia attended the Twins-Blue Jays series this week.

• There was a rumor out of the Twins clubhouse that the team spoke with Atlanta about a deal involving righthander Carlos Silva. That rumor reached Silva's agent, Peter Greenberg, who contacted the club and was told that nothing was going on involving his client.

• The Twins were interested in switch-hitting first baseman-DH Dmitri Young, but reports on Thursday had him on the verge of signing a two-year, $10 million extension to remain with Washington.

• Ruben Amaro Jr., Philadelphia's assistant GM, was in attendance when Class AAA Rochester faced Ottawa of the Phillies' chain. Amaro apparently was there to watch righthander Kevin Slowey pitch. The pitching-needy Phillies do have outfielders Shane Victorino and Michael Bourn, who could interest the Twins, but Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel told reporters on Wednesday that he prefers an established pitcher to a prospect for his rotation.

• The Twins will have a new player tonight when they purchase the contract of Rochester third baseman Brian Buscher. Buscher, 26, is a minor league Rule 5 pick out of the Giants organization who batted .313 with six homers and 20 RBI in 35 games with the Red Wings after being promoted from Class AA New Britain.

Will that be the only addition before the trade deadline? While Twins players have wondered whether the club will make a big trade, some veterans believe the one deal that should be made is to trade the way they've been playing for the way they played down the stretch last season, when they rallied to win the division title on the last day of the regular season.

"I don't feel like we need anything," catcher Mike Redmond said. "We just have to get it out of ourselves as players and keep grinding it out and give a little bit more. We're just not getting it done."

  • TWINS AT CLEVELAND 6:05 p.m. today • Jacobs Field • FSN • 1500-AM

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