Every day, there seems to be new developments concerning the Twins rotation. Here's what went down Sunday:
Phil Hughes will return to the rotation Wednesday when he faces Cleveland. Tuesday, he looked rusty and his pitches lacked sharpness in his first start in five weeks following back trouble. The Twins announced after that game that their Opening Day starter would be available as a reliever over the weekend, and Hughes threw two innings in the second game of Saturday's doubleheader against the Angels. Manager Paul Molitor noted some improvement, and the decision was made to give Hughes another start.
"I think he looked more comfortable on the mound in that it wasn't his first time back out after five weeks," Molitor said.
Hughes still isn't satisfied with the sharpness of his pitches, but the righthander is ready to take the ball and help with the hunt for a wild-card berth.
"I will do whatever I can do," he said. "If they need me to start, if they need relief outings. Whatever it is, I'll do it."
Hughes threw 65 pitches in his start against Detroit on Tuesday but should be able to last a little longer if he is getting hitters out.
The Twins rotation for the series against Cleveland is now set: Ervin Santana vs. Danny Salazar on Tuesday, Hughes vs. Corey Kluber on Wednesday and Kyle Gibson vs. Cody Anderson on Thursday.
Milone shoulder fatigue
One reason Hughes is needed to start again is that lefthander Tommy Milone has come down with shoulder fatigue.
"It was a combination of just not quite feeling right and a lack of feel for pitches," Molitor said. "I think it's a little soreness, but more just a fatigue thing than soreness."
Milone said he began to have problems following his Sept. 12 start against the White Sox, a game in which he was knocked out in the fourth inning in chilly U.S. Cellular Field.
"It wasn't a hurt feeling," he said. "I just couldn't really get loose. Obviously pitching in Chicago didn't help."
Milone said he felt good warming up for his start Thursday against the Angels, but things deteriorated the more pitches he threw. Handed a 5-0 lead after one inning, he couldn't survive the second, giving it all back in what turned out to be the first of three consecutive losses to Los Angeles.
He plans to play catch Tuesday to see how his shoulder has responded to rest and treatment.
The Twins have no idea when Milone, 8-5 with a 4.08 ERA, will be ready to contribute again.
"Trying to figure out how quickly he will come along," Molitor said.
Break for Dozier
Brian Dozier's second-half swoon continues, and he added to his run of poor form Saturday when he committed a 12th-inning error that led to the winning run in the first game of Saturday's doubleheader.
That prompted Molitor to keep his struggling All-Star out second baseman of Sunday's lineup. "We can see he is one of the guys who is trying too hard," Molitor said.
Dozier struggled late last season, too, but not to the extent of the funk he is in right now. Last year, he batted .235 with a .715 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in September. This September, he is batting .176 with a .539 OPS; his numbers since the All-Star break are not much better (.206 average, .646 OPS).
Monday's final scheduled off day of the season gives Dozier two mental-break days.
• The Twins made another baserunning mistake Sunday. Eduardo Escobar singled with Torii Hunter on first and Miguel Sano on second in the fifth inning. Sano got a late read on the ball and didn't take off right away. Third base coach Gene Glynn started to wave him home but threw up the stop sign when he saw Sano arriving at the bag late. Hunter read the ball all the way and rounded second, thinking Sano was going to score. Sano saw Hunter heading to third, took off for home and ended up in a rundown. "Not one of our finest moments," Molitor said.
• With two hits, Joe Mauer has reached base in 40 consecutive games, two shy of Bob Allison's club record set in 1961.