No matter how he pitches, North St. Paul native Louie Varland always spends some time with his family near the Twins' dugout after games in which he pitches. So when it came time for manager Rocco Baldelli to make official Varland's return to the minor leagues after Tuesday night's 5-4 loss to the Colorado Rockies, "we couldn't find him," Baldelli said.

Can't find him, can't send him down, right?

"I've seen that move," Baldelli said. "I wouldn't call it the most effective of moves, but I've seen it attempted."

He eventually did locate the young righthander, and Varland will join the Saints in Louisville within a day or two. But Varland's one-day cameo — five shutout innings, allowing only one hit and one walk — insured that he will be back in the major leagues sometime soon.

"When you pitch really well like that, you put yourself in a spot where you earn more opportunities," said Baldelli, who used Tuesday's game to give the rest of his starting rotation an extra day off during a long stretch of games. "Every time you pitch good, you're doing yourself a lot of favors, and he did it at the big league level tonight, and he did it in a fashion that really looked good."

Unfortunately for the Twins, Caleb Thielbar has maybe never looked worse.

Baldelli decided not to allow Varland — who shaved more than two runs off his ERA, now down to 7.04 after four disastrous April starts — to face Colorado hitters for a third time and summoned Thielbar to face the top of the Rockies' order in the sixth inning.

It didn't go well.

Charlie Blackmon ripped a fastball 102 mph into right field for a single. Brenton Doyle took a fastball a foot above the strike zone for a nine-pitch walk. And Ezequiel Tovar blasted a belt-high fastball 107 mph into the bleachers in left-center, a three-run homer. Left in to face lefthanded Ryan McMahon, Thielbar left a low fastball over the middle of the plate, and it bounced off the wall in right field for a double.

Cole Sands replaced Thielbar, of Randolph, Minn., and McMahon eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Michael Toglia. That matched Thielbar's career high of four runs allowed in an outing, and the first one of those in which he didn't retire a batter. Thielbar's ERA, now 7.47, actually climbed higher than Varland's.

BOXSCORE: Colorado 5, Twins 4

Varland actually doesn't mind that his numbers don't look good.

"Every pitcher, every player is going to struggle at some point. The league will adapt to you and you have to adapt to that," Varland said. "I'm happy it's happening to me. It's going to make me a better player."

Maybe someday he will be as good as Cal Quantrill always is against the Twins. The former Cleveland Guardian who now owns a 6-0 career record in a dozen starts against Minnesota, and is 3-0 at Target Field, allowed only three hits, all singles, over six scoreless innings. No Twin reached third base against Quantrill, who helped Rockies manager Bud Black, who once led San Diego to 649 wins, earn his 500th victory in Colorado.

Once Quantrill departed, home runs helped the Twins close the gap. Byron Buxton, after fouling off four pitches, crushed a 100-mph fastball from reliever Victor Vodnik halfway up the vines beyond the center-field fence.

And Carlos Santana, whose base running mistake killed a potential rally in the seventh inning — off with the pitch, he rounded second base on Jose Miranda's long fly ball to left, and couldn't retreat to first base before the Rockies doubled him up — hammered his 10th homer into the right-field seats with two outs in the ninth inning.

But it wasn't enough to close the gap completely because McMahon had padded Colorado's lead with a home run of his own in the seventh inning, a long fly ball to right off Sands.