Notes: Dealing with the DH conundrum
Blyleven makes good on bet, lets Santana shave his head
NEW YORK -- The Twins not only have had problems finding a consistent designated hitter over the past few seasons, they've had problems finding players who actually like hitting in the spot.The DH hasn't been a concern for the Twins over the past three games, because they have been playing in National League parks, but it hasn't prevented the issue from disappearing. Jeff Cirillo admitted after Tuesday night's game that he has felt more comfortable at the plate, in part due to seeing more time at third base. "I honestly think playing third base has been a factor," Cirillo said. "I tip my hat to the DHs in the league. You sign up and say, "Oh yeah, just DH and get at-bats that way. But it's not that easy. ... I think, in part, it's just a matter of sweating. You go up there and DH and feel like it's the first swing during [batting practice]. Maybe not that drastic, but I think that playing third base has helped." The Twins had the same problem with outfielder Rondell White last season. Though White had signed to play for the club exclusively in the DH spot, he had trouble adjusting to the position. Instead, White found himself hitting better after he returned to playing the outfield. "It's never going to be easy for a guy that's been playing in the field," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "The good thing about Cirillo is that he's got a great glove, and we can play him around the infield when he's healthy." Cirillo has started to get hot over his past two games, raising his batting average from .208 to .253. He was slotted in at third base for the second straight day, but Gardenhire said that Cirillo will likely see action in more spots once they return to American League play. "We can mix him in at third and first like we've done," Gardenhire said. "But you can't lose [Justin] Morneau's bat in these National League games." Clean sweep: Twins TV broadcaster Bert Blyleven made good on his promise and let Johan Santana give him a buzz cut on Wednesday afternoon. The two had made a wager that if Santana threw a complete-game shutout, Blyleven's hair would be gone. Santana used his talented left arm to wield the clippers and buzzed Blyleven's hair to just a layer of mere fuzz. The entire ballclub stood and watched as the haircut took place inside the visitors' clubhouse. Accompanied by a few "Circle me Bert!" exclamations from Santana and some cheering from the crowd, Blyleven seemed to take the haircut in stride. "You hadn't thrown a shutout in nearly two years, so I thought it was a pretty safe bet," Blyleven said. "That's why this isn't Vegas," Santana retorted with a smile, as he buzzed away.
Gardenhire got his own kick out of the event. Though the skipper didn't know about the wager until after the game, he joked that it might have altered his plans."If I had known about it during the game, he might have thrown about 150 pitches [to get the shutout] just so we could see Bert get his head shaved," Gardenhire said with a laugh. "I mean, I'd challenge just about anybody to a nine-inning shutout, but not Santana. Even though he hasn't done it in a few years, you're challenging the wrong guy, probably." Short a dozen: The Twins had discussed the possibility of adding a pitcher to the roster at some point during the current road trip due to the bullpen being a tad overworked. But Santana's complete game helped give that bullpen a much-needed rest, and led the club to put off such a move. "The pitching adjustment we were worried about, we don't need to do that now," Gardenhire said when asked about a possible off-day move. "We can get by." The plan is to remain at 11 pitchers for at least the rest of this trip. But that will change once the Twins get back to American League play, which includes four home games vs. Toronto followed by a three-city road trip heading into the All-Star break. Gardenhire said that the club will likely go back to 12 pitchers, especially considering that they will play a doubleheader at Chicago on July 6. One pitcher that Gardenhire ruled out as a possibility was Glen Perkins. The left-hander still has not thrown from a mound, and the club wants to give him plenty of time to stretch his arm before returning. "When a guy comes off an injury like that, you've got to make sure [he's ready]," Gardenhire said. "So, yeah, he's going to need some time." No panic: The Twins have relied on Luis Castillo to be the catalyst of their offense, but recently, he's struggled at the plate. Castillo entered Wednesday's game in an 0-for-21 skid, the longest of his career. Known for beating himself up for poor at-bats, Castillo was noticeably upset the past few days. Gardenhire said that he tried to talk to the second baseman during batting practice on Tuesday about not being so hard on himself. "He believes that when he gets on base, that's how we win games," Gardenhire said. "And he's about right. So I like to see a guy who cares that much, and he does." It didn't take long for Castillo to rebound. He hit a double off Mets starter Oliver Perez to lead off the first inning on Wednesday. Twins tidbits: White made progress in his rehab for the second straight day, reporting no soreness or tightness in his calf while running. The Twins are still uncertain when he will get back to playing games. With all of the club's affiliates now in league play, White must start his official rehab assignment in order to take the field, and the team wants to make sure he's ready before that happens. ... The Twins held an open tryout at the Metrodome this past week and signed right-handed pitcher Mark Hamburger. The 20-year-old, who was attending Mesabi Community and Technical College in Virginia, Minn., will report to the Gulf Coast League rookie club. Down on the Farm: Jason Miller pitched four innings and gave up just one unearned run in Triple-A Rochester's 5-4 victory over Columbus on Tuesday. Jose Morales went 3-for-4 and drove in four of the Red Wings' runs. ... Jesse Floyd and J.P. Martinez combined to give up seven runs in Double-A New Britain's 7-6 loss to New Hampshire. ... Yohan Pino pitched eight scoreless innings in Class A Fort Myers' 2-0 win over Tampa. Steve Tolleson and Luis Ugueto each drove in a run for the Miracle. Coming up: The Twins will enjoy an off-day in Miami on Thursday before beginning a three-game series with the Marlins. Right-hander Boof Bonser (5-3, 4.33) will get the start in Game 1 of the series as he faces Marlins left-hander Scott Olsen (5-6, 4.89). First pitch is at 6:05 p.m. CT.
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.