KANSAS CITY, MO. - Righthander Esmerling Vasquez was shaky on Sunday, giving up five earned runs over 5 2/3 innings during the Twins' 6-4 loss to the Royals.
Some of his pitches missed the plate by a lot. But there were times when he showed flashes of the pitcher who went 9-6 with a 2.78 ERA at Class AAA Rochester before being called up.
He struggled the most in the second inning, but a 3-2 pitch to Lorenzo Cain that looked to get plenty of plate was called a ball, leading to a walk that loaded the bases. Vasquez then gave up a sacrifice fly to Eric Hosmer and a two-run single to Tony Abreu.
"I felt OK," Vasquez said. "It was my first start in the big leagues."
Vasquez appeared in 141 games as a reliever with Arizona before the Twins plucked him off waivers a year ago. He struggled with pitching in back-to-back games, so the Twins are trying him as a starter.
"We'll take the performance and move on from there and see how he does in his next few," manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Gardenhire said that, as of now, the Twins rotation will be Vasquez, Samuel Deduno, Scott Diamond, P.J. Walters, Cole De Vries and Liam Hendriks.
"We've got to see everybody pitch," he said. "So depending on how everything goes, if one guy scuffles bad, I think we'd go back to five."
Walters will start on Wednesday in Chicago. The Twins have not decided what they will do with the scheduled day off on Thursday. They could push everyone back a day or skip someone.
Lefthander Brian Duensing will work out of the bullpen for now. Gardenhire said he has no problems starting Duensing but the goal is to look at other starting candidates.
"But I also think over the course of the winter, to give him a chance in spring training, he needs to work on the windup and get back to what he was when he was a starter -- that's out of the windup and a normal starting routine," Gardenhire said. "I think that's something he mentioned he would like to do, have a chance to be a starter. Well, depending on who we sign and who we bring in, he'll have a good chance to be a starter.
"He's so versatile and that's the great thing about him; he can go either way."
• Outfielder Josh Willingham did not start on Sunday because of a sore right hamstring, but he was on deck to pinch hit in the ninth inning when Ben Revere struck out to end the game. General Manager Terry Ryan said Willingham is day-to-day.
• Nick Blackburn didn't make it out of the third inning Sunday in his start for Rochester against Syracuse. He gave up two solo home runs in the first inning was charged with three earned (three unearned) on eight hits over 2 2/3 innings.