KANSAS CITY, MO. - And down the stretch they come.
The Twins landed in Chicago on Sunday evening after losing 6-4 to the Royals earlier in the day. But by sweeping Saturday's doubleheader, they still were able to win two of the three games at Kaufman Stadium -- their first winning series since taking two of three at Cleveland Aug. 6-8. Momentum, eureka!
And the September schedule has more AL Central foes waiting for them. Of their remaining 28 games, 22 are within the division, including six games against the White Sox and six against Detroit. When they step out of the Central, they have three games at home against the Yankees.
Twins General Manager Terry Ryan was asked about embracing the spoiler role this month, and he sounded like he was more concerned about identifying who deserves a shot to make the roster next season.
"It's not a good position to be in," Ryan said. "That's not what we wanted to do in September. No one wants to be in a predicament like we're in, playing a spoiler. We've got some things to accomplish, and taking some looks at these guys."
The was obvious on Sunday, as Esmerling Vasquez looked shaky in his Twins debut, giving up five earned runs over 5 2/3 innings on seven hits and three walks. He is one of several starters being evaluated for 2013.
Chris Parmelee was called up on Wednesday and is expected to play as much as possible, either in right field or at first base. Parmelee went 5-for-11 with two home runs and four RBI in the three-game series, sending more messages to the club that it needs to find a spot for him in the 2013 batting order.
So expect to see more pitchers such as Vasquez and P.J. Walters and others to get mound time. And Parmelee to get plenty of at-bats.
More prospects are expected to be called up around midweek -- including infielder Eduardo Escobar from Class AAA Rochester -- for their September auditions.
Look for veterans to get more days off. Yet when the Twins are matched up with the White Sox, Tigers and Yankees, expect the core players to start.
"That's our responsibility," Ryan said. "We've got to put out a team that would be the most competitive ballclub against those teams to make sure there is credibility in the playoff race.
"Back in the '90s we had some issues with that on occasion; it looked like we weren't [being competitive]. But that was what we had to do. So any time you see us play a team that's in the playoff hunt, we're going to put out the best lineup we can to make sure that it's a creditable race."
Keep the following players in mind as you try to get through the final month of the season:
Escobar: He is expected to be promoted. He came over from the White Sox as part of the Francisco Liriano trade.
Pedro Florimon: The shortstop can field. Can he be serviceable at the plate?
Trevor Plouffe: Can he finish strong? He has one homer over his past 32 games. One.
Liam Hendriks: The righthander is winless in 15 career starts, but he sure teased us with that gem last Monday vs. Seattle.
Samuel Deduno: The righthander has made progress in work with pitching coach Rick Anderson. How good can he be?
The Twins don't want to approach 99 losses again and won't take games lightly. But this month is about looking at players for the future, which could help get your mind off the present.
"[We] will be a part of this division race, [just] not the way we like to be a part of it," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "If you put your best foot forward like we always try to do, you will have an impact on it. But that's not the No. 1 goal; it's to really right yourself, finish off a season and at least have a little bit of a good feeling going into the winter."
La Velle E. Neal III • email@example.com