CLEVELAND – Twins manager Ron Gardenhire wasn’t in the best of moods as he walked to Progressive Field before Thursday’s game. His best hitter, Joe Mauer, is slow to come around from a back injury. And a player he wanted to call up Wednesday night, Oswaldo Arcia, suddenly has soreness in the wrist he injured earlier in the season.
Then Gardenhire was hit with an unexpected development: Sam Fuld, who was replacing the injured Aaron Hicks in center field, reported to the park with a massive headache, and joined Hicks on the seven-day concussion disabled list.
The media entered Gardenhire’s office for the pregame presser and found one perplexed manager.
Things didn’t get any better from that point. The Twins were pummeled 9-4 by Cleveland, as the Indians won three games of the four-game series.
Cleveland had nine extra-base hits, including two home runs. And righthander Justin Masterson pitched strong into the seventh inning.
“Crazy game,” Gardenhire said, “Lots of stuff.”
That meant Gardenhire’s head was spinning all day Thursday as he sorted out a depleted roster.
He filled out a lineup card with Eduardo Escobar in center field instead of Fuld. Escobar, an infielder, made his first career start in the outfield Wednesday and misplayed a ball into a double that led to a walk-off win by the Indians. Gardenhire had one healthy player, infielder Pedro Florimon, on the bench. A second player, infielder Eduardo Nunez, joined the Twins during the game.
Hitting coach Tom Brunansky joked that he could be activated.
“He said give him two days,” Gardenhire said. “I told him I don’t have two days.”
It’s not six weeks into the season and the Twins outfield has been decimated. Four outfielders have landed on the disabled list. Two have been claimed off waivers. Gardenhire’s Opening Day outfield of Arcia, Willingham and Hicks has been together for three games. The Twins have used 10 different outfielders this season — seven in left field.
The Twins’ outfield Thursday — Escobar, Chris Herrmann and Jason Kubel — entered the game with a combined two home runs. Masterson had to be salivating when he saw the lineup card. He held the Twins to two earned runs over 6⅓ innings on four hits and four walks with seven strikeouts.
Some of the Twins’ outfield woes were self-inflicted. They lost Alex Presley on waivers to Houston as they tried to make room on the roster for Jason Bartlett and others. They lost Darin Mastroianni on waivers to Toronto last month as they tried to make room for Fuld.
Meanwhile, the injuries keep coming. It’s not known how long Arcia will be out because of his current setback. Mauer is going to test his sore back Friday. If he can’t play by Saturday, he’ll likely land on the disabled list.
Gardenhire has been on the phone constantly with assistant general manager Rob Antony, trying to plug holes.
“We have all been tested this week,” Antony wrote in an e-mail. “No ideal scenarios but everyone just trying to do the best we can. Never easy determining whether a guy should go on the DL or if he could be back in lineup in a few days. When it is one of your better players [Mauer] you need to give them a chance to bounce back. That forces the manager to play short. You can only do that so long.
“When we are faced with a notification of an injury a few hours before a game [Fuld] it is very difficult to do much. This was compounded by Mauer being unavailable. We are trying to do everything we can to give this club a chance to win every day, so I’m not sure what I could have done differently. We would have had three outfielders today [Wednesday] if Arcia didn’t have a stiff wrist.”
Good news for Gardenhire. He’ll have two more players added to the roster by Friday, with one expected to be Hicks. He’ll be close to full strength as the Twins try to end a three-game losing streak to a Detroit team that just had an eight-game winning streak stopped Thursday.
Hello Mr. Verlander. Hello Mr. Scherzer.
“The good thing,” Gardenhire joked, “is that we’re not facing very tough pitching.”
La Velle E. Neal III firstname.lastname@example.org