A year ago at this time, after appearing in six games for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Jon Rauch had an ERA of 9.82 and had given up seven runs and 10 hits.

Saturday, after his sixth appearance in his new role as the Twins closer, the 6-11 pitcher has six saves with an 1.50 ERA. He has given up six hits, one run and only one walk.

As for the Twins, a year ago after 12 games, they were 5-7. This year after 12 games, they are 9-3 and have won every series (with the Angels, White Sox, Red Sox and Royals) -- the first time they had won four series to start the season.

And as for the closer, a year ago after 12 games, Joe Nathan, who is laid up after Tommy John surgery, had five saves with a 1.50 ERA.

As good as he has been, Rauch refused to take credit for his great record after retiring the Royals in the ninth inning and saving the 6-5 victory.

"It's just a testament of our team," the 31-year-old pitcher said. "We're playing good ball right now. We kept coming back today. I'm just doing what Joe [Mauer] tells me to do."

Rauch had not worked since last Monday's game against the Red Sox, but it didn't hamper his unblemished record.

"I've gotten up a few times [to warm up], especially in a couple of these close games," he said. "I was up last night [Friday], and we scored a bunch of runs in the eighth. I'm just happy to pitch whenever they want me to."

Until Twins manager Ron Gardenhire changed his mind about having a committee to handle the closer duties and assigned Rauch the job, the righthander hadn't been a closer since 2008 when he was with Washington, where he had 17 saves in 22 opportunities with a 2.98 ERA. The change in scenery didn't agree with Rauch when he was traded to Arizona, where as a non-closer he was 0-6 with a horrendous 6.56 ERA to close out the '08 season.

Last year, Rauch was 2-2 at Arizona with a 4.14 ERA until the Twins acquired him. He posted a 5-1 record with a 1.72 ERA for the Twins and fortunately he had another year on his contract. However, he is a free agent after this year.

What about being a closer?

"You just have to get three outs regardless of when it is in the ballgame," Rauch said. "To me, it's just getting three outs."

One of Rauch's strengths has been his ability to throw strikes on the first pitch. "It definitely helps," he said. "But sometimes first-pitch strikes are first-pitch hits. You have to deal with that, and try and get the next guy."

Rauch was waiver claim

Twins General Manager Bill Smith talked how Rauch was put on waivers by the Diamondbacks. Smith claimed him last Aug. 28.

"Most teams put a lot of their players out on waivers just to measure what the interest is, and we claimed him," said Smith "[Under major league rules], we were the only team that they could deal with. We were able to strike a deal."

The Twins wound up trading pitcher Kevin Mulvey for Rauch.

"It works both ways; they didn't have to do anything with him," Smith said. "But, I think it was a good fit for them. They had good reports on Kevin Mulvey and they were out of the race last year. So it was an opportunity for them to get a young pitcher that they're going to control for a long time and move along Jon Rauch who had done well for them, but it was time for a change."

As for Mulvey, he was 0-3 in four starts for the Diamondbacks last year, while this season he was optioned to Class AAA Reno after spring training.


The Dodgers were 5-6 going into Saturday night's game. Two former Dodgers free agents helped the Twins beat the Royals on Saturday. Designated hitter Jim Thome and second baseman Orlando Hudson hit home runs. Hudson is riding a nine-game hitting streak and is now hitting .280.

Another trade brought J.J. Hardy to the Twins from Milwaukee for Carlos Gomez: Hardy is hitting .265 in 12 games, and Gomez is at .250 in eight games. Alcides Escobar, who replaced Hardy as the Brewers shortstop, is hitting .250 in 10 games.

All the media are reporting that Justin Cobbs, the Gophers point guard from Torrance, Calif., is transferring to a school closer to home. But the other day in the company of two of his teammates, Cobbs told me the rumors of his transferring are not true. We'll find out if he was telling me the truth.

Kansas Jayhawks center Cole Aldrich of Bloomington Jefferson has selected Excel Sports Management president Jeff Schwartz to represent him in the upcoming NBA draft. The agency also represents Aldrich's friend, Kevin Love of the Timberwolves. One mock draft projects Aldrich being selected 11th by New Orleans. That is five spots ahead (No. 16) of the Wolves' second of three first-round selections. They also have a lottery choice and No. 23.

Former Holy Angels baseball standout Joe Loftus, who the Twins drafted in the 29th round out of high school, is batting .250 with four home runs and 17 RBI in 33 games for Vanderbilt.

Kyle Gibson, the Twins' 2009 first-round draft choice out of the University of Missouri, got hammered in his first start for Class A Fort Myers, giving up six hits and five earned runs. However, Gibson, who the Twins believe is not too far away from the major leagues, did much better in his second start, giving up four hits and no runs in six innings while striking out six.

Gophers athletic director Joel Maturi said the drawings for the new Gophers baseball stadium are available, and now it's a matter of raising money for it and a basketball practice facility. "The basketball building we are finalizing the footprint and where it would be, and obviously it's a matter of fundraising, which we'll do extensively this summer," Maturi said. ... Next year, in addition to hosting the Frozen Four, the University of Minnesota will also play host to the men's Big Ten and NCAA swimming and diving championships.

Edina native Anders Lee, a Notre Dame recruit, was recently named the USHL's Rookie of the Year after leading Green Bay in scoring with 35 goals and 31 assists in 60 games ... South St. Paul native and former Minnesota Duluth standout goalie Alex Stalock set an AHL record for wins by a rookie with 39 after posting a 39-19-2 record with a .908 saves percentage and 2.63 goals-against average with four shutouts. ... Former Gopher Ben Gordon is the 10th-leading scorer in ECHL, with one goal and seven assists in seven playoff games for the Reading (Pa.) Royals.

Wild prospect Kris Foucault scored twice, including the winning goal in overtime, to clinch the 3-2 victory for the Calgary Hitmen over the Medicine Hat Tigers last Sunday. With the victory, Calgary clinched the series 4-2, and moves to the Eastern Conference final in the Ontario Hockey League playoffs.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. • shartman@startribune.com