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.
There's been a mutiny in the press box on a beautiful Wednesday afternoon at Target Field. Sports reporter Amelia Rayno (@AmeliaRayno) and Strib intern Alex Prewitt (@Alex_Prewitt) have hijacked Joe's Around the Majors blog and will be taking it over for today's 12:10 game against the Rays.
MAUER OFF TODAY, AT 1B TOMORROW
Joe Mauer will get today off after experiencing some general soreness in his shoulder following yesterday’s 3-2 win over the Rays, but will start at first base tomorrow night when the Twins travel to Chicago for a four-game series with the White Sox.
"I want to do anything I can to help the team," said Mauer, who has talked to Michael Cuddyer and some other Twins for tips. "Obviously for me personally, it’s going to be a grind the rest of the way, physically. So if this allows me to take a day from behind the plate and give your body a little break, it’ll be a good thing."
Mauer hasn’t played first in 10 years, but manager Ron Gardenhire says Mauer’s fundamentals are looking good.
“We won’t really know until we get him over there and see, but honestly he’s pretty fluid over there,” Gardenhire said. “He’s got soft hands, he moves around there pretty well, all the fundamental parts of it.”
BAKER COULD MISS NEXT START
Scott Baker left yesterday's start after the fifth inning with a mild right elbow strain and will get an MRI today. Gardenhire's "gut feeling" is that Baker will miss his next scheduled start on Sunday against Chicago. That would give Baker the All-Star Break to recover.
“There’s a pretty good chance of that,” said Gardenhire, who hasn’t discussed the matter yet with the trainers. “Bake says he feels pretty good today, but there’s a pretty good chance that we give him those days and then the All-Star Break days. We’ll all feel a little bit better about it letting him get through that.”
In the event that Baker missed the series-finale against the White Sox, Anthony Swarzak will get the start. Swarzak (1-2, 3.94 ERA) has thrown over 90 pitches four times this season, most recently in a six-inning relief appearance against Texas on June 10. His last start came in a 8-2 win over Kansas City on June 2. He gave up seven hits and two runs in six innings then. According to Gardenhire, Swarzak is “100-pitch ready.”
CAPPS WILL ‘BE FINE’
After being removed from save situations in consecutive appearances, Matt Capps could get a little rest this afternoon, according to Gardenhire. Capps gave up a first-pitch homer to B.J. Upton that brought the Rays within one run, and left to boos with two outs after walking Kelly Shoppach. Lefty Glen Perkins came on and got the save for the second time in three games.
“I know he's frustrated, so we'll see what we can do,” Gardenhire said. “Cappy's going to be fine, I know that, throwing the ball. Our big concern, as we talked about last night, is getting him back to feeling good about himself and then throwing the ball good too.”
The Twins are looking for its first sweep of an AL East opponent since Aug. 23-26, 2007 against the Orioles, but first they'll have to get by starter Wade Davis and Rays, who Minnesota hasn't swept at home in six years. The right-hander has a 1.80 ERA in his past three starts and has already beaten Minnesota twice this season, allowing three runs in 13.2 innings.
The Twins will send Francisco Liriano to the mound. The lefty has a 2.89 ERA over his past seven starts with 47 strikeouts in 43.2 innings but is 1-3 with a 8.20 ERA in four starts against AL East foes this season and gave up six hits and seven runs in 3.0 innings versus the Rays on April 27.
PLOUFFE HOT IN ROCHESTER
Trevor Plouffe had a big day at AAA Rochester yesterday, swatting three homers in the doubleheader. He now has 15 home runs in 45 games for the Red Wings this season and started the nightcap at first base, a move that Gardenhire told Rochester to make.
“I was the one who called and told to put him at first base,” Gardenhire said. “I’m looking for all kinds of options. I told him to keep playing first base until we call.”
Gardenhire’s problem will be finding space on the roster for Plouffe. If he makes a move, he said it will likely be a catcher who will head back to Rochester.
Position-wise, Gardenhire said that Plouffe could fit in at first base with the Twins, where he played during a spring training game, or in the outfield. Red Wings manager Tom Nieto told Gardenhire that Nieto “wouldn’t have any problem putting him in the outfield in a big-league game right now.”
Center fielder Ben Revere was named the American League Co-Rookie of the Month for June along with Oakland's Jemile Weeks after batting .294 (30-for-102) with 14 runs, nine RBI, four doubles, one triple and seven stolen bases in 25 games. Revere had 11 multi-hit games in the month and led all rookies in hits, runs and stolen bases. He's the third Twin to win the award after Francisco Liriano (June and July 2006) and Boof Bonser (Sept. 2006).
1. Damon, DH
2. Zobrist, RF
3. Longoria, 3B
4. Upton, CF
5. Rodriguez, 2B
6. Kotchman, 1B
7. Ruggiano, LF
8. Shoppach, C
9. Johnson, SS
Starting pitcher: RH Wade Davis (7-6, 4.20 ERA)
1. Revere, CF
2. Casilla, 2B
3. Cuddyer, 1B
4. Thome, DH
5. Valencia, 3B
6. Tosoni, LF
7. Repko, RF
8. Rivera, C
9. Nishioka, SS
Starting pitcher: LH Francisco Liriano (5-7, 4.76 ERA)
Target Field. First pitch: 12:10 p.m. TV: FSN. Twins Radio Network
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