MILWAUKEE – It once was hard for Tommy Milone to crack the rotation. Now it’s going to be difficult to take him out of it.
Milone pitched six shutout innings on Sunday before the bullpen let the game slip away in a 5-3 loss to the Brewers. Milone gave up two hits and walked three while striking out seven. It was the third time he’s struck out at least seven batters in an outing.
The challenge was figuring out home plate umpire Lance Barrett’s tight strike zone. A spot-hitter like Milone needs the edges of the plate, and he didn’t get them much Sunday.
“Tommy was solid,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “We had a little frustration at times with certain pitches but I think that was kind of going both ways. He put up a lot of zeros for us and gave us a chance.”
Milone struck out the side in the fifth and retired nine consecutive hitters at one point.
He got the first two outs in the sixth before walking Ryan Braun — he was careful with him all day — and giving up a double to Carlos Gomez.
Adam Lind sent a slow bouncer to second, but Brian Dozier scooped it up and shoveled the ball from his glove to first baseman Joe Mauer to get Lind by a step.
Milone is 2-0 with a 2.03 ERA this month.
“There were things I needed to work on, going back down there,” said Milone, who spent May in the minors. “A little more aggressive. I feel like I’ve been able to do that.”
Too many decisions
Molitor has five players he’s comfortable with writing down on his lineup card.
Dozier and Trevor Plouffe are mainstays. Torii Hunter and Mauer are regulars who will need occasional days off. Kurt Suzuki is his catcher.
The manager said on Sunday that Eddie Rosario has impressed.
“Rosario is close to that right now for me,” Molitor said.
That leaves three spots in the lineup that are a daily grind for Molitor.
While it gives him the ability to use his entire bench, he does long for one day having more continuity in the daily lineup.
“My preference would be to have as many consistent names as I could,” Molitor said. “I kind of like that. At the same time you like to keep all your players involved to some degree. The fact is we have more of those positions in flux right now than I would like. You hope people step up and make it a little easy for you to start changing how you go about doing that.”
• Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said the club wants Aaron Hicks (right forearm) to get a few at-bats at Class AAA Rochester during his rehabilitation assignment. He will not be called up on Monday, his first day eligible to come off the disabled list. “The only thing that would affect that is if someone got hurt,” Ryan said. “All bets are off then.” Rochester was rained out Saturday, forcing a doubleheader Sunday.
• Class A Fort Myers infielder Engelb Vielma was named the organization’s minor league player of the week after going 7-for-15 with a double and two RBI. Ryan said Vielma is an excellent defensive player whose offense will determine how soon he reaches the majors.
• Byron Buxton (left thumb sprain) is wearing a splint to aid healing.
• Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy threw out three of six Twins attempting to steal a base during the series.
• The Twins challenged the call when Eduardo Escobar was picked off first base in the third inning. After a delay of 3 minutes, 22 seconds, the call was upheld. The Twins are 11-for-16 on challenges this season.