Phil Miller covered three seasons of Twins baseball, but that was at a different ballpark for a different newspaper. Now Miller returns to the baseball beat after joining the Star Tribune as the Gopher football writer in 2010, and he won't miss the dingy dome for a minute. In addition to the Twins and Gophers, Miller covered the Utah Jazz and the NBA for six years at The Salt Lake Tribune.
KANSAS CITY -- I didn't view Monday's 10-8 loss as particularly troubling for the Twins until entering Manager Ron Gardenhire's office, seeing the tension on his face, hearing his words and listening to the stone-cold silence in the rest of the clubhouse.
Sure, the game had ended with a base-running gaffe by Jason Repko. And sure the pitching performances by Kevin Slowey, Jeff Manship and Randy Flores had been troubling. But none of them figure to play pivotal roles during the postseason. I realize that made it four straight losses for the Twins, and Gardenhire had a message to send to the team, which he had done before the media entered.
Still, as I wrote for first editions, the way Jason Kubel and Delmon Young are swinging the bat has to be encouraging for the Twins. Those two carried the team on its September surge last season, then virtually disappeared in the playoffs.
Kubel and Young combined to go 2-for-26 with 14 strikeouts in those three losses to the Yankees. The Twins would love to see what they could do this October if those two are at their peak. Young has 108 RBI now, and Kubel ranks second on the team with 92.
Last year, after Aug. 29, Kubel and Young combined to bat .321 with 12 homers, 17 doubles and 48 RBI, as the Twins went 23-7 to overtake the Tigers for the division title.
But the Yankees still found answers in their advanced scouting reports. Young, who batted .340 in September, went 1-for-12 with five strikeouts in the Division Series. Kubel, who batted .304 with eight homers and 30 RBI over the Twins last 30 games, went 1-for-14 with nine strikeouts.
Joe Mauer and Michael Cuddyer combined to go 11-for-26 in that three-game sweep by the Yankees last October. The Twins will take their chances this time, if Kubel and Young can stay in a groove, too.
Heading back to the clubhouse soon for updates on Mauer, J.J. Hardy and Jim Thome, etc.
Update: Jim Thome returned to Minnesota today, as expected, but the news on his back and J.J. Hardy's left knee sounds encouraging. Both were checked by doctors and both were cleared to proceed with as much activity as they can tolerate. The swelling in Hardy's knee has subsided, Manager Ron Gardenhire said.
It sounds like both could be ready to take batting practice with the team on Thursday, the first day of the homestand. Gardenhire might want to watch them go through a full workout before clearing them to play the next day.
Joe Mauer took batting practice with the team today. His left knee is getting better. Gardenhire said it's more likely that Mauer's first day back in the lineup would come at home, perhaps Thursday. So perhaps Mauer is the DH on Thursday, and Thome is ready to DH on Friday.
1. Denard Span, CF
2. Orlando Hudson, DH
3. Delmon Young, LF
4. Jason Kubel, RF
5. Michael Cuddyer, 1B
6. Danny Valencia, 3B
7. Jose Morales, C
8. Matt Tolbert, 2B
9. Nick Punto, SS
Starting pitcher: RH Nick Blackburn (10-10, 5.23 ERA)
1. Jarrod Dyson, CF
2. Mike Aviles, 2B
3. Billy Butler, DH
4. Kila Ka’aihue, 1B
5. Josh Fields, 3B
6. Alex Gordon, LF
7. Yuniesky Betancourt, SS
8. Lucas May, C
9. Jai Miller, RF
Starting pitcher: RH Sean O'Sullivan (2-6, 7.21 ERA)
Kauffman Stadium. First pitch: 7:10 p.m. TV: FSN. Twins Radio Network
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