GM seeks answers; win shows some

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 3, 2011 - 7:22 AM

Bill Smith pointed to injuries and a tough schedule as reasons why the Twins had struggled before their victory Thursday.

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KANSAS CITY, MO. - Twins General Manager Bill Smith said Thursday that the organization has done some serious soul searching of late, trying to figure out "where we are, how we got here and how we are going to get out of it?"

The Twins sat 20 games under .500 before righthander Anthony Swarzak pitched six innings in an 8-2 victory over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.

"The first thing is we haven't played well," Smith said in a telephone interview. "There are some -- you can call them excuses, you can call them circumstances -- we've had a lot of injuries. Every team has them; ours have kind of piled up on us. And we've had a tough schedule."

By June 8, when the Twins finish this road trip, they'll have played 40 of their first 61 games on the road, including 18 in AL East ballparks, where they struggle.

"The good news is we've got a lot of home games left, and we have a lot of games in our division," Smith said.

He pointed to the Diamondbacks, who were 17-23 before going on a 14-2 run.

"How do we get out of this?" Smith said. "We have to get on one of those streaks, whether we do it with the group we have now or we do it with our regular lineup as we get them back off the disabled list. We have to find ways not to dig that hole deeper between now and then."

On Thursday, they finally set aside their shovels.

After placing Jason Kubel and Jim Thome on the 15-day disabled list, the Twins still got a big night from their offense.

They jumped on Royals starter Sean O'Sullivan (2-5) for six runs in the third inning, capitalizing on some shaky defense by second baseman Mike Aviles, as they built a 7-1 lead for Swarzak.

The Twins hadn't played a game decided by more than three runs since May 19, going 2-10 in that hair-pulling stretch.

"We've been getting after it," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We've played a lot of one-run games [25], some close ballgames, but these guys have a little something in them."

In his third start of the season and second subbing for the injured Francisco Liriano, Swarzak gave up two runs on seven hits.

Swarzak (1-2) wasn't as sharp as he was Saturday, when he took a no-hit bid into the eighth inning against the Angels, but Gardenhire still was impressed.

"He battled and made pitches when he had to, and that says a little something about what's inside of him," Gardenhire said. "He has that get-after-them attitude, which was really good, and we needed that tonight."

Liriano, who is on the DL because of left shoulder inflammation, felt pain-free playing catch Thursday. If he feels good in a bullpen session Saturday, he'll make his start Tuesday in Cleveland, with Swarzak moving to the bullpen, Gardenhire said.

"We like [Swarzak's] arm," Gardenhire said. "We brought him up here to be a long [reliever], but he looks like he has enough stuff to even help us out in some close ballgames."

At 25, Swarzak isn't picky about his role.

"I just want to pitch, really, just want to help the team," he said. "... After spending all of last year in Triple-A, it humbled me a little bit. I just want the ball. I don't care where it is or when it is. It's not my decision."

The road back to respectability will be long, but that's the determination Smith and Gardenhire need to see.


    Up next: 7:10 p.m. today at Kansas City • Kauffman Stadium • TV: FSN (1500ESPN)

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