Slowey emerges as option to start

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The much-maligned Kevin Slowey might return to the Twins this season after all.

Photo: Charlie Riedel, Associated Press

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There could be a Kevin Slowey sighting in the near future.

The Twins are discussing calling up the righthander from Class AAA Rochester, where he has made seven starts since recovering from an abdominal strain. With members of the starting rotation struggling -- and top prospect Kyle Gibson having elbow problems -- Slowey has emerged as an option.

Slowey is 1-2 with a 3.55 ERA for the Red Wings. He gave up two runs over 5 1/3 innings on Friday in a 4-1 loss to Norfolk, needing 101 pitches to do so.

The Twins explored deals involving Slowey before last Sunday's nonwaiver trade deadline but were unable to move him.

It would appear that the easiest move the Twins could make is to promote righthander Anthony Swarzak to the rotation. But the Twins would lose an effective long man out of the bullpen. And Slowey can't come up and return to the bullpen. He didn't do well in that role early in the season and prefers to be a starter.

It should be pointed out Slowey is pitching on the same day righthander Nick Blackburn is with the major league club, which would be a simple swap if the team decides to make a move.

Both Blackburn and pitching coach Rick Anderson saw some signs of progress Friday despite Blackburn walking six batters in a 5-3 loss to the White Sox. Blackburn kept the ball down for most of the night. After the first inning, catcher Drew Butera stopped setting up on the corners of the plate and just kept his mitt over the middle of the plate. Blackburn aimed for the middle and let the movement of his fastball take over, which worked.

Blackburn is scheduled to start Wednesday vs. Boston.

Nishioka sits one out

Infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka has a four-game hitting streak. But it wasn't enough to keep him in the lineup Saturday.

"Everybody is going to get a little bit of a blow here and there," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He's played them all. So get a little of a break here, a break there."

Actually, Nishioka has appeared in all but two games since June 15, his first day back from a broken leg. But Gardenhire wanted to start Matt Tolbert at shortstop and keep Michael Cuddyer's bat in the lineup Saturday. The two were among some players who got in early fielding work Saturday.

Nishioka was charged with an error Friday when he tried to flip a ball backhanded to second base in the first inning and missed.

"He had time to get an out," Gardenhire said. "Physical errors happen. Mental mistakes are the ones you want to quit."

Etc.

• Cuddyer's two doubles in Saturday's loss to the White Sox give him 233 for his career, putting him past Harmon Killebrew into sixth on the Twins' all-time list.

• Alexi Casilla (right hamstring) continues to make good progress. The Twins hope he can return to the lineup Saturday, the first day he's eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list.

• Jack Morris threw out the first pitch Saturday as the Twins celebrated the 20th anniversary of the 1991 World Series championship team. But Morris refused to throw from the mound, opting to deliver the pitch from in front of it. "The mound is for [the starting pitchers]," he said. "When I pitched, I didn't want some guy throwing the first pitch to mess it up."

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