At times on Friday, Kevin Slowey smiled after throwing a pitch. That could be interpreted many ways, especially when it happened as Yankees hitters reached base.
Slowey said even when he made a good pitch, Yankees hitters were on him. And what else could he do?
"I'm never happy giving up hits," he said. "I'm never happy giving up runs. Never OK with it. My goal is to put up zeros.
"There were times where there was just a wry smile like, 'Wow, I made a good pitch,' and they were on it. Just stuff I need to work on for the next outing."
Yankees hitters were on Slowey as much as New York righthander Phil Hughes was on against Twins hitters as New York whipped the Twins 8-1 at Target Field in front of an announced crowd of 41,328.
Hughes (4-4) was magnificent, tossing 7 2/3 strong innings.
Twins right fielder Trevor Plouffe homered off Hughes in the first inning to open the scoring. And 24 batters later, the Twins had their second hit of the game. That's how well the strike-throwing Hughes dominated. Of his season-high 106 pitches, 70 were strikes.
Slowey is supposed to be a strike-thrower, too, but he was knocked out of the game in the sixth after Russell Martin connected for his second home run of the evening, a two-run shot to left that brought manager Ron Gardenhire out to the mound.
"Slowey was battling early," Gardenhire said. "A lot of pitches early. A lot of high counts, and then [they] put a couple in the seats.
"That's what that team does over there, they grind you down."
Slowey needed 25 pitches to get out of the first inning and had thrown 104 when he was replaced by Anthony Swarzak. The Yankees fouled off 32 pitches, an example of their ability to keep at-bats alive.
Over 5 2/3 innings, Slowey gave up six runs, nine hits and a walk with four strikeouts. It was his first official outing since being called up to replace the injured Scott Baker in the rotation. His first start, on Sunday at Cleveland, was rained out after two innings.
Slowey needs to pitch well down the stretch to prove he belongs in a 2012 rotation -- either the Twins' or someone else's. He began the season in the bullpen but had problems adjusting to the role and yearned to return to the rotation. It was during a May series at Arizona that Slowey met with Gardenhire and pitching Rick Anderson, and all emerged agreeing that a change of scenery might be needed.
"I understand that, even given past successes as a starter, this might not be the right fit for me anymore," he said then.
But Slowey had an abdominal strain he needed to recover from, and spent more than two months rehabbing in Florida, then pitching for Class AAA Rochester.
The Twins were willing to deal Slowey before the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline, but clubs weren't offering much or wanted the Twins to eat some of Slowey's $2.7 million salary.
When Baker went down because of an elbow injury, Slowey was called up and now has a chance to finish the season strong.
"For me, the remainder of the season is just like the rest of the guys," Slowey said. "Every one of us has things to work on. For me, it's mechanics and consistency and making pitches and keeping the ball down."