The first place in the AL Central Twins head off to Miller Park today to complete this year's interleague rivalry series. It's been a month since the Brewers faced them in Minnesota, to the usual effect against the Twins. The only thing this accomplished was for Ken Macha to make sure that Dave Bush will never face the Twins again. Thankfully for the Brewers, they won't be facing the incredibly hot Carl Pavano in this series, but they'll have to contend with other things. The Twins will have to contend with not having a DH.
The Twins are coming off a semi-successful road trip to Philadelphia. They won two out of three but they were hard, costly wins; the depletion of the bullpen in the first game essentially cost them the use of backup SS Trevor Plouffe when he was optioned back to Rochester when Jeff Manship was recalled to bolster the 'pen. The two failed starts along with the extra-inning game on Saturday wore out the 'pen and the bench. Bench management in NL games appears to be a difficulty for them this year. One of the issues is with the usual use of Jim Thome; if he reaches base, he almost always has to be pinch-run for. Ron Gardenhire appears reluctant to use spare starting pitchers in that situation. (Also...what he's got spare in this series is Pavano, and he can't run.)
There's more excitement below. Starting pitching! Roster moves! Interesting rookies!
projected Twins starters
Tuesday: Scott Baker (6-5, 4.41 ERA, 1.284 WHIP)
Baker's coming off a 12K in 7 innings performance in his last start against Colorado, which is exactly what I get for joking right before the game that he should be marked "for decorative purposes only." Baker's kind of the Twins version of Bush or Manny Parra: his highlights are very, very high indeed (up to taking a perfect game into the ninth inning in 2007) and his lowlights are very, very low.
Wednesday: Francisco Liriano (6-4, 2.98 ERA, 1.198 WHIP)
Liriano had a great start on Thursday. He ran into a spot of trouble in the first but settled down. However, the Twins couldn't hit what Ubaldo Jiminez was throwing. In his only start against the Brewers last year, he walked 5 with 2 wild pitches. He's cut his BB/9 in half in 2010, so that's not exactly the Liriano we'll be seeing. He's also leading the AL in lowest HR/9, possibly a result of Target Field.
Thursday: that dreaded starter To Be Announced
I have no idea why the projected starter isn't announced yet. The only possibility is that both Nick Blackburn, whose spot in the rotation this is, and Kevin Slowey are far from overworked after their slightly less than 2IP performances this past weekend and that Gardy's having trouble determining which one will go. Either that or they're throwing Manship back into the rotation (unlikely, but stranger things have happened.)
projected Brewers starters
Tuesday: Chris Narveson
Narveson's never faced the Twins as a starter before. Unfortunately the Brewers' issues with facing pitchers they've never seen do not work in reverse. It's also unfortunate that he didn't start at Target Field, where he may be less prone to giving up the long ball. The Twins are only hitting those on the road this year.
Wednesday: Manny Parra
Parra faced the Twins twice in relief this year and gave up 4 walks in 3.2 IP. He got shelled in his only 2009 start against them in Minnesota, giving up 9 runs in 3.1 IP.
Thursday: Yovani Gallardo
Yo's last start against the Twins in May went 6 innings, in which he gave up 4 runs on 6 hits and 3 walks. That, surprisingly, was his only start in his career against Minnesota.
roster changes since last they met
I already mentioned that Plouffe, who had been serving semi-admirably in J.J. Hardy's absence at shortstop, was sent down to Rochester. Jeff Manship's up, presumably temporarily as Jose Mijares is out on a family emergency. Alexi Casilla is out for a while, and has been replaced as usual by Matt Tolbert. Hardy is still on the disabled list, although he was off it for a while. He's eligible to come off the disabled list today, but he probably won't be back until after this series. Nick Punto has moved over to SS, and rookie Danny Valencia is replacing Punto at 3B. Valencia, a 19th-round draft pick in 2006 and former teammate of Ryan Braun's at the University of Miami, is essentially the Twins' third baseman of the future TODAY! He's been starting regularly at third since his debut on June 3rd. The sample is too small to evaluate his performance in the majors this year. On the other hand, he has a chance of being better than Brendan Harris.
Speaking of utility players--it's true that the Twins show some sort of preference to having them on the roster. Michael Cuddyer has played at five positions this year (RF, CF, 1B, 2B, and 3B) and Brendan Harris has played all four infield positions. The current active roster features five players who have played multiple positions in 2010.