De Vries' 'lukewarm' offerings delight A's

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 15, 2012 - 6:41 AM

The Twins starter didn't help his chances of staying in the rotation, giving up seven runs.

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The Twins rotation was bound to be in continued flux after the All-Star break, with Cole De Vries and Sam Deduno still around as surprising holdovers, filling holes left by pitchers who struggled mightily in the first half.

On Saturday night, it was already time to wonder if another change is coming soon.

De Vries, who had been terrific in his two previous starts for the Twins, got pounded for seven runs in five innings in a 9-3 loss to the Oakland Athletics at Target Field.

The Twins plan to give De Vries at least one more start -- something they feel he earned with a lights-out performance last Sunday in Texas -- but Nick Blackburn and Liam Hendriks are both making strong cases to return from Class AAA Rochester.

"I really try to not put anything into that because it's going to put so much added pressure on myself," De Vries said. "I've had a few good outings. This was just one of those outings that wasn't very good. We all have them. That's why I'm going to try and make my next one as good as I can."

The surging A's, who have won eight of nine, entered the day ranked last in the American League in runs scored at 3.74 per game. But they roughed up De Vries for three home runs, including a three-run shot by Chris Carter that gave them a 4-0 first-inning lead.

Yeonis Cespedes drilled a two-run homer over the right-center field wall in the third inning, and two innings later, Seth Smith launched a solo shot into the upper deck in right-center field. The A's have at least one home run in 19 of 20 games, and they feasted on De Vries.

"Belt-high and lukewarm," manager Ron Gardenhire said after his team's fourth consecutive loss. "Those balls get hit in the big leagues and that's where [De Vries] was throwing the ball today."

Just six nights earlier, the Twins were marveling at all the things De Vries did well in seven scoreless innings against the Rangers, enduring a 46-minute weather delay and holding Texas to three hits.

This time, his command was completely off.

"I just didn't feel very good out there tonight," De Vries said. "I felt real weak, for whatever reason. For the first inning or two, I felt overly hot. My ball was up the whole night. It was one of those times where I went out there and just tried to give the team as many innings as I could so our bullpen didn't get killed."

De Vries hasn't been one of the Twins' biggest starting pitching problems this season -- not even close. But no one can be sure he's part of the solution, either. He is 2-2 with a 4.37 ERA in seven games, including six starts.

"He's doing OK -- probably better than most people expected this early in his career," Gardenhire said before the game. "We'll see. It's a long time before we'll know what he can and can't do."

Hendriks (7.04 ERA) and Blackburn (8.10 ERA) have been far worse than De Vries in their starts for the Twins this year. But Blackburn is 2-0 with a 0.60 ERA for Rochester after notching another victory Saturday, and over three stints with the Red Wings, Hendriks is 7-0 with a 1.79 ERA.

The Twins have used 11 different starting pitchers, and they might be recycling again soon.

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