Twins Insider: Players aim to stay together after successful road trip

  • Article by: LAVELLE E. NEAL III , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 14, 2014 - 10:05 AM

After completing a 5-2 road trip, they want Terry Ryan to believe they can still contend for the playoffs.

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Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Phil Hughes works against the Colorado Rockies in the first inning of an interleague baseball game in Denver on Sunday, July 13, 2014.

Photo: David Zalubowski, Associated Press

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–The Twins have a message for General Manager Terry Ryan, who is contemplating what moves he will make before the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline. Part of the message was sent Sunday as they scored early and late during a 13-5 rout of the Colorado Rockies.

The Twins intend to deliver the rest of the message during the 13 games following the All-Star Game that lead up to the deadline.

Terry, don’t sell.

“We’ve got [that much time] to prove to them that we don’t need to lose guys,” All-Star closer Glen Perkins said.

The topic came up among the players during breakfast on Sunday. Some players have heard rumors about trades. The Yankees and Blue Jays were in attendance on Saturday for Kevin Correia’s start. And some in the clubhouse have heard that All-Star catcher Kurt Suzuki definitely could be dealt before the deadline. None of the pitchers want that to happen.

The Twins are 10½ games out of first place in the AL Central. They are 6½ back of the second AL wild-card spot. Their longest winning streak has been four games. They have twice lost five straight. Call it streaky, call it inconsistent. They have not looked anywhere close to a contending team.

“We’ve dug ourselves a little bit of a hole,” righthander Phil Hughes said, “but it’s a division where it’s not impossible to get back in the race.”

A GM has to look at the big picture. And Ryan has indicated more than once in the last month that the club hasn’t convinced him to be a buyer. So veterans such as Suzuki, Correia and Josh Willingham could be trade bait before the deadline if the Twins can receive something acceptable in return.

The clubhouse argument is that they aren’t as bad as they have been in recent seasons. They are 44-50 at the All-Star break, three games better than last season. The Twins need to shore up the back end of the rotation, but their starters’ ERA is 4.86, down from 5.32 at the break last season.

“I feel like we have been in more games,” Perkins said, “and that has given us more hope.”

They are 14-15 in one-run games, nearly the same rate as last year, when they were 24-25 in those games. They have improved in two-run games, going 12-7 this season after a 12-13 record last year. They believe they are more competitive.

They have three key players on the disabled list. Leadoff hitter Danny Santana is due back Friday after recovering from a bone bruise near his left knee. He injected some excitement into the lineup before he was injured.

The problem is first baseman Joe Mauer (right oblique) and righthander Ricky Nolasco (right flexor pronator). No one knows when they will be ready.

With those players healthy, the Twins feel like they will get on a roll.

If Ryan decides to sell, players are worried it will weaken the roster and lead to a second half like last year, when they plummeted to 96 losses. They want to see if they can make a run with the group they have — and maybe persuade Ryan to add.

“If there is a petition going around to not sell, sign me up,” said Hughes, who struggled Sunday but still improved to 10-5.

Well, they have called themselves out now. Dozier nodded when I told him they have raised the stakes for next few weeks. After taking two of three from Colorado — and finishing their road trip with a 5-2 record — their confidence is high heading into the break. They open with a 10-game homestand after the break, including series against division foes Cleveland and Chicago. If they are going to make things interesting — and a good 10-day run can bring a team in range of that second wild card spot these days — they have to start picking off teams in the AL Central.

“In our opinion, we’re good enough,” Dozier said. “This week was a big week for us, especially [now] coming back from the All-Star break with 10 games at home. Everything plays in our favor, we just have to go out and win.”

While they eye a fast start after All-Star week, scouts will be circling and Ryan’s phone will be buzzing.

“We want to be competitive and play meaningful baseball,” Perkins said. “We need the guys we have to be able to do that.”

La Velle E. Neal III • lneal@startribune.com

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