Pain of all kinds is making the rounds for Twins

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 28, 2011 - 8:33 AM

Scott Baker left with a five-run lead, but that didn't hold. If that wasn't deflating enough, Francisco Liriano will miss Saturday's start, and Joe Nathan and Jim Thome are ailing again.

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After another horrendous bullpen collapse by the Twins in Friday night’s 6-5 loss to the Angels, there was more deflating injury news at Target Field.

Francisco Liriano has been scratched from Saturday’s start because of a sore left shoulder. Manager Ron Gardenhire said he hopes Liriano misses only one start. Righthander Anthony Swarzak will take his turn against the Angels.

Joe Nathan was unavailable to pitch Friday because of a tender right elbow. Gardenhire said if Nathan doesn’t feel well enough to pitch Saturday, the Twins might need to place him on the disabled list.

Jim Thome left Friday’s game because of soreness in his right shoulder, and the Twins were contemplating a cortisone shot.

As if the game itself wasn’t bad enough, as the Twins sank to a major league worst 16-33.

"It’s about as tough a time in baseball as I’ve ever experienced," said Scott Baker, who handed a 5-0 lead over to the bullpen in the eighth.

Last year, when the Twins setup relief corps included Matt Guerrier, Jesse Crain, Jon Rauch and Brian Fuentes, they went 72-7 in games they led after the seventh inning.

This year, after those four relievers departed via free agency, the Twins have led 20 games after the seventh inning, losing eight.

Baker tweaked his right foot on a rundown play in the seventh inning but said he doesn’t expect the injury to keep him from making his next start. But with his night finished, Nathan unavailable, and the Twins trying to save Swarzak for Saturday, the setup duties fell to Alex Burnett (7.11 ERA), Dusty Hughes (9.95) and Jim Hoey (10.61).

Asked if he feels skittish no matter who he turns to in relief, Gardenhire said, "Those guys have to get it done. That’s who we have. That’s who we are. That’s who has to pitch. I don’t really have an answer. Skittish? I don’t know. Nervous? Absolutely because we’re not getting the job done."

Burnett was late covering first base on a single by speedster Peter Bourjos to open the eighth inning. Then Maicer Izturis walked before pitching coach Rick Anderson turned to the lefthanded Hughes.

Gardenhire had a cortisone shot in his knee — no one can escape the Twins’ injury woes — leaving Anderson to make the pitching changes.

Erick Aybar hit the first pitch from Hughes into the left field seats for a three-run homer. The switch hitter came in batting .350 against righthanders and .231 against lefties.

"First pitch is right down the middle," Gardenhire said. "Can’t throw the ball for them. They have to be better than that."

On came Hoey, who had been called up from Class AAA Rochester to replace the injured Kevin Slowey.

Torii Hunter doubled, Alberto Callaspo hit an RBI single, and Russell Branyan tied it with a sacrifice fly — the first out of the inning.

Just five nights earlier, against Seattle, the Twins had taken a 7-4 lead into the eighth inning, only to lose 8-7 in 10.

After that game, with closer Matt Capps dealing with right forearm soreness, Gardenhire said he could no longer afford to turn to the righthander in the eighth inning.

Capps warmed up Friday, but Gardenhire said he was only available for a ninth-inning save situation.

So with the score tied 5-5, Hoey went back for the ninth. Peter Bourjos tripled, and Izturis hit the go-ahead single before Anderson turned to Phil Dumatrait. The journeyman lefthander got three outs, lowering his ERA to 2.08 and cementing his status as one of the team’s best setup men.

 

  • L.A. ANGELS 6, TWINS 5

    Up next: 6:10 p.m. today vs. Los Angeles at Target Field • TV: Ch. 9 (1500ESPN)

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