Jim Souhan: No need to push panic button; just stop hitting snooze

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 3, 2011 - 12:16 AM

Blue Jays pitcher Kyle Drabek held the Twins to one run and one hit over seven innings Saturday for his first major league victory.

Photo: Frank Gunn, Associated Press

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TORONTO - This might be irresponsible, but something must be done. I have to recommend that the Minnesota Twins begin taking a performance-enhancing drug.

This one will not require them to receive injections in the gluteus maximus. This one will not land them in front of a jury of their peers, or cause acne, tape-measure home runs or the donning of a yellow jersey.

The Twins don't need steroids, just a little Xanax, before their first road trip of the season turns into a forced march to the bottom of the AL Central.

"We've just got to kind of relax out there," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It looks like we're running around a little bit too much, trying to do too much in the field and everywhere else."

The Twins lost 13-3 to Toronto on Friday. It was their most lopsided Opening Day loss, ever. Saturday, the Twins managed one hit against rookie Kyle Drabek, losing 6-1 at Rogers Centre.

Starting the season 0-2 is no reason to panic, although it seems the Twins considered starting the season a reason to panic.

"We've got guys all over the place," Gardenhire said. "We've got to try to relax and try to play a better brand of baseball. It's not been a lot of fun to watch."

Gardenhire sounded nervous on a conference call Thursday, then before the game Friday.

He sounded worried about his double-play combination, and Alexi Casilla and Tsuyoshi Nishioka have failed not only to get on the same page; they look as if they are reading different books.

He sounded worried about his bullpen, and that was before short starts by Carl Pavano and Francisco Liriano made him worry that he's getting charged international roaming fees every time he uses the bullpen phone.

Gardenhire sounded worried about his key hitters missing so much time because of injuries in the spring, and the Twins have managed only four runs in two games, and only hit two balls out of the infield Saturday.

Starting 0-2 isn't a big deal. If this were an NFL season, the Twins still would be playing the first quarter of the first game.

This particular 0-2 start, though, is foreboding because it is remindful of so many Twins problems:

• The rustiness of their hitters. Denard Span is 3-for-7. The rest of the team is 6-for-54.

"We had some guys miss some pretty important at-bats this year, and there's not much you can do about that," Gardenhire said. "You miss half of spring training, that's going to happen, and we said it could be a little slow. But we'll work on that and try to get better. We're facing some pretty good pitching, too."

• Their lack of a true ace.

Pavano, chosen to start on Opening Day because of his mental toughness and reliability, lasted four innings.

Liriano, the Twins' most dominating and talented pitcher, lasted 4 1/3.

"We ended up throwing an awful lot of pitches, again," Gardenhire said. "We just didn't control the strike zone again today."

Aces don't always win, but they typically take command of big games and games, like these, that merely feel like big games. Pavano and Liriano did not.

• Their unsettled bullpen. Two games in, Dusty Hughes, Jeff Manship and Kevin Slowey already have struggled, with Slowey failing to slam the door Saturday.

"We're already running guys out there on back-to-back days," Gardenhire said. "Too many pitches from our bullpen, not enough pitches from our starters."

• Their inability to match up with Big East powers, especially on the road.

The Twins are 5-15 at Rogers Centre since 2006. They are 0-7 the past three seasons at Fenway Park.

They are 4-25 under Gardenhire in the regular season at Yankee Stadium, where they will play a four-game series starting Monday.

The Blue Jays, Red Sox and Yankees rely on power bats, making them a difficult matchup for the Twins' contact-inducing pitchers.

The Jays have hit six home runs already this season, including two off Liriano, who gave up only nine all of last season.

"We definitely haven't lived up to the way we can play," Gardenhire said. "Hopefully, we'll get there."

Losing two games means little. The team that wins the 2011 World Series will have plenty of two-game losing streaks. What matters is how a team plays, how it competes, and anyone wanting to criticize or excuse this year's Twins could say the same thing after watching them be outscored 19-4 in Rogers Centre:

This team has not yet begun to fight.

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2:40 p.m. on 1500ESPN. His Twitter name is Souhanstrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com

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