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Gardenhire dismissed by Twins after 13 seasons

Managed team to six division titles; only Kelly has more wins as Minnesota skipper

Gardenhire dismissed by Twins after 13 seasons

MINNEAPOLIS -- After 13 seasons and six American League Central championships, Ron Gardenhire is out as Twins manager after a fourth straight season with at least 90 losses, the club announced Monday. It has not been decided if he will accept an offer to take an undisclosed position in the organization, as he hasn't ruled out managing elsewhere.

The Twins will look both inside and outside the organization for a replacement for Gardenhire, and the coaching staff will be determined by the new manager in conjunction with general manager Terry Ryan. The contracts of all of seven of Minnesota's coaches expire at year's end, but some could be retained by the new skipper. Gardenhire, 56, had one more year remaining on a two-year he deal signed before the season.

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"This is a little bit of a difficult day for a lot of us," Ryan said during a news conference at Target Field. "We've been together with Ron for a long time. ... I think it was mutually agreed upon that we're going to go in this direction."

Gardenhire succeeded Tom Kelly in 2002 and led the Twins to division titles in each of his first three seasons and four of his first five. They also won back-to-back AL Central championships in 2009-10 to mark six division titles in nine years, but have struggled over the past four seasons, finishing last in the division in three of them and fourth in the other.

The Twins finished this year 70-92, their fourth straight season with at least 90 losses after losing 99 games in 2011 and 96 in both '12 and '13. It was just the second time in franchise history that Minnesota lost at least 90 games in four straight years, as it also lost 90-plus games from 1997-2000.

"I'm gone. I'm out of here because we didn't win," Gardenhire said. "That's what it gets down to in baseball. That's what it should get down to -- you have to win on the field. These last four years have been tough on us."

Gardenhire experienced early success with the Twins, as he finished as the runner-up for the AL Manager of the Year Award in 2003, '04, '06, '08 and '09 before winning the award in '10. His career record is 1,068-1,039, as he picked up career win No. 1,000 early this season to become just the 10th big league manager to reach the milestone with just one team. His victory total is the second highest in club history, behind Kelly's 1,140 wins.

Gardenhire's teams struggled in the postseason, going 6-21 while winning just one series, in '02 against the A's in the AL Division Series. The Yankees were often the culprit, knocking the Twins out of the playoffs in '03, '04, '09 and '10.

"I would've loved to have won a World Series," Gardenhire said. "I would've loved to have gone deeper into the playoffs. But it didn't happen. But maybe it's still to come."

Gardenhire joined the organization as a player at Triple-A Portland in 1987 after five seasons in the Majors with the Mets as a utility infielder. He was a manager for three seasons in the Minors for Minnesota's Class A and Double-A affiliates before joining the Twins' staff as third-base coach under Kelly in 1991. Ryan was the one who brought him into the organization, as he was familiar with him from his time as the Mets' scouting director.

"I feel like he's my brother, not my manager," Ryan said. "I think even back in his earliest days with the Mets a lot of us saw the potential he could be a big league manager. Little did I know he'd be manager of the Twins and go on to the heights he went on to. He's a great baseball man."

Gardenhire remained as third-base coach before taking over for Kelly and becoming the 12th manager in franchise history. The new manager will be just the third for the Twins since 1986, when Kelly replaced Ray Miller.

"I've been here a long time, I've been doing this a long time," Gardenhire said. "Sometimes people need to hear a new voice. I have no problem with this. I love it here. I really have no desire to go anywhere else. I agree with this. I think this is the right thing. I think they need a new face here. ... I want this organization to win and, you know what, I'll be rooting for them just like everybody else."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Twins, Ryan open up managerial search

Team will look inside and outside organization for Gardenhire replacement

Twins, Ryan open up managerial search

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins are in an unfamiliar place, as they'll be looking for a new manager for the first time since 2002 and just the second time since 1986.

Tom Kelly took over for Ray Miller in '86, managing the Twins for 16 seasons before handing it over to Ron Gardenhire, who managed the club for 13 seasons before being dismissed the day after the season ended on Monday.

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The Twins have lost at least 92 games in four straight seasons, but with a loaded farm system on the way and the emergence of players such as Brian Dozier, Trevor Plouffe, Danny Santana and Kennys Vargas, general manager Terry Ryan believes it'll still be an attractive job. He said he'll look both inside and outside the organization for the 13th manager in Twins history.

Hall of Famer Paul Molitor, who just finished his first season as a coach with the Twins, is regarded as the top internal candidate, while top external candidates include White Sox third-base coach Joe McEwing and Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo.

"Our next manager will have a lot of the same attributes Ron has," said Ryan, who will begin the managerial search in earnest on Tuesday. "For me, this will be an attractive job, I suspect. I really do believe that, as bad as things have gone the last four years."

Other in-house candidates who could be looked at include Twins bench coach Terry Steinbach, Triple-A manager Gene Glynn and Class A Advanced Fort Myers manager Doug Mientkiewicz. The Twins have also been linked to Cardinals third-base coach Jose Oquendo, Rays bench coach Dave Martinez and A's bench coach Chip Hale.

"I think we'll certainly open it up to anybody and everybody that is capable of managing a Major League Baseball team," Ryan said. "I don't think we oughta just stay within, although that would be a nice preference if you could."

As Ryan noted, staying within the organization seems to be the preference, but he's also open to bringing in an outsider. Ryan said he'll work with the new manager on a coaching staff for next year, as the seven coaches, including Molitor and Steinbach, are currently in limbo with their contracts set to expire at the end of the year.

"My preference is to get the best guy," Ryan said. "It'd be nice to get a guy that's inside, because he'd know the inner workings of this organization, and the market, and the ballpark, and the personnel. That would be great, but sometimes it's not meant to be."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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MLB.com Columnist

Jim Callis

Buxton, Montas intriguing AFL prospects on the mend

Baseball's top prospect, White Sox hurler look to prove they're fully recovered from injuries

Buxton, Montas intriguing AFL prospects on the mend

There's a good amount of subjectivity regarding baseball prospects. With the evaluation of talent being in the eye of the beholder, finding consensus is often difficult. Even Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLBPipeline.com don't always see eye to eye. They discuss their viewpoints regularly in a feature called Pipeline Perspectives. Submit a topic for them to debate.

The Minor League season came to an end in September, but several of baseball's brightest prospects will still play games that count in October and November. They'll head to the Arizona Fall League, the finishing school for young talent that has produced 212 All-Stars (including 36 this year alone), 25 Rookies of the Year, 12 MVPs and four Cy Young Award winners since it started in 1992.

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I'm fortunate enough to get to make two AFL trips this year, one for the Fall Stars Game on Nov. 1 and another for the final week of the regular season and the championship game on Nov. 15. There are plenty of prospects I hope to see in person, with Twins outfielder Byron Buxton (Salt River) and White Sox right-hander Francellis Montas (Glendale) the hitter and pitcher I'm looking forward to most.

Jonathan Mayo has his own separate wish list for this week's Pipeline Perspective, with White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson (Glendale) and Cubs right-hander C.J. Edwards (Mesa) his top targets.

Buxton emerged as the game's top prospect in 2013, but he has rarely been 100 percent physically since heading to Arizona last October. He strained his left shoulder on a swing and played in just eight AFL games last fall, then appeared in just 30 games during the 2014 regular season. He sprained his left wrist diving for a ball during Spring Training, reaggravated it on a slide in May, got hit by a pitch on his right wrist in July and sustained a season-ending concussion in an outfield collision in August.

Buxton's list of above-average tools is longer than that litany of injuries, however, which is why he has drawn comparisons to Mike Trout with more power at the same stage of their careers. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, Buxton has well above-average hitting ability, speed, center-field skills and arm strength to go with merely above-average pop. He won't turn 21 until December and could arrive in Target Field at some point next season.

The injuries are more fluky than a long-term concern, so there's no worry about whether Buxton can reclaim his form from 2013, when he batted .334/.424/.520 with 49 extra-base hits, 55 steals and 76 walks in his first full professional season. It just will be fun to see him back at full strength on the diamond again.

"I'm just trying to go there and catch up on some at-bats, trying to do well and try and get my swing back," Buxton told Mayo last month. "I want to go there and see what happens. It's very important, especially if you want to move up the ladder, you have to get the at-bats in, the experience. I'm just trying to slow it down, be patient and disciplined and try to move past the injuries that happened this year."

Montas doesn't have nearly as high a profile as Buxton, though he did establish himself as one of the White Sox best prospects when he wasn't battling knee issues this year. Originally signed by the Red Sox for $75,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2009, he began flashing a 100-mph fastball when he arrived in the United States three years later. But he also struggled to develop reliable secondary pitches and command, so Boston sent him to Chicago last July in a three-team trade that shipped Jake Peavy to the Red Sox and Jose Iglesias to the Tigers.

Montas did little but light up radar guns after joining the White Sox last summer, but he looked like a different pitcher this season after missing April recovering from meniscus surgery on his left knee. His slider showed signs of giving him a second plus pitch, his changeup was more effective and he did a much better job of locating his pitches where he wanted. He dominated high Class A hitters before needing meniscus surgery on his right knee in late June, then returned in August and reached Double-A.

"His fastball, slider and changeup can all be plus pitches," Chicago assistant general manager Buddy Bell said. "We've seen him up to 102 mph. He could compete for a big league starting job next year. If his command is real, he has No. 1 starter stuff."

Montas was selected to pitch in the Sirius XM All-Star Futures Game before his second meniscus surgery, and a healthy Buxton would have been a lock for the prospect showcase held at Target Field this summer. Injuries scuttled their chances at some prime-time exposure this summer, but the Arizona Fall League will give them the chance to get some and make up for lost time this fall.

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com and writes a blog, Callis' Corner. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Twins brass says it was hard to dismiss Gardenhire

Twins brass says it was hard to dismiss Gardenhire

MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins owner Jim Pohlad and club president Dave St. Peter were unable to attend Monday's news conference announcing Ron Gardenhire's dismissal as the manager, but they reiterated it was a tough decision to move on from Gardenhire.

Pohlad and St. Peter, speaking in a teleconference with reporters Monday night, said they worked with general manager Terry Ryan and ultimately supported Ryan's decision to go in a different direction with their manager after four straight years with 90-plus losses.

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"It's a difficult day for our organization," St. Peter said. "It's a day we take very seriously. Jim and I feel badly we were unable to be in Minneapolis today and be there in relation to the decision."

Pohlad echoed both Ryan and Gardenhire's comments from earlier in the day that it was time for a new voice after Gardenhire's 13 years at the helm, where he compiled a 1,068-1,039 record.

"Some people are going to think this is a good idea and some people are not going to think this is a good idea," Pohlad said. "After four losing seasons, an idea is a good thing. You explore other ideas also."

Pohlad and St. Peter also said Ryan will lead the charge in finding in a new manager, but they will likely meet with the candidates later in the process. But Ryan will ultimately be in charge of finding Gardenhire's successor.

"My personal hope is he does as good a job as he did the last time he hired a manager," St. Peter said. "That guy did a pretty job for us for 13 years."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Twins players laud Gardy for his 13 years at helm

Twins players laud Gardy for his 13 years at helm

MINNEAPOLIS -- While the Twins struggled through four straight years with at least 90 losses, manager Ron Gardenhire never lost the support of the players in the clubhouse.

Gardenhire was dismissed as manager on Monday after 13 years at the helm, but Twins players had nothing but positive things to say about their former skipper.

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"It's saddening to hear it," Twins second baseman Brian Dozier said in a phone interview. "For me, personally, Gardy is the only manager I've had. Once I got to the big leagues, he's the one who showed me how to be a professional. He pulled me aside when I needed to be chewed out or picked up. I can't even tell you how much I learned from him."

Closer Glen Perkins, a two-time All-Star who made his Twins debut in 2006, was also saddened to hear that Gardenhire will no longer manage in Minnesota. He found out while cleaning his locker at Target Field on Monday morning, and expressed disappointment at the news.

"As much as anything, he was the same guy whether we won or lost," Perkins said by phone. "He came to the field with a great attitude wanting to work and improve. It just came down to us going on the field and not performing. And I think as players, it's disappointing to us. We didn't do enough to help him keep his job."

Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe, who has been with the club since 2010, echoed Perkins' statements, saying that it wasn't Gardenhire's fault for the way the club played over the last four years.

"For whatever reason, fans and other people think it's the manager or the coaches' fault when a team loses and it's something I don't necessarily agree with," Plouffe said by phone. "I don't think there was much Gardy could've done with what we were putting out there against other teams. There's not much he could've done to change things."

Right-hander Phil Hughes, who just finished his first year with the Twins, took to Twitter to also say Minnesota's 92-loss season was on the players and not Gardenhire.

"We as players had a responsibility to the organization, fans, and coaches to win this season," Hughes tweeted. "We failed."

Left-hander Brian Duensing, who has been with the Twins since '09, also tweeted his support for Gardenhire, who took the Twins to six American League Central titles in nine years.

"I really hope fans remember all the good that Gardy did for the Twins, the city of Minneapolis and the state of Minnesota," Duensing tweeted. "Thank you Gardy."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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First managerial moves made as offseason begins

Twins dismiss Gardenhire while Astros hire Hinch

First managerial moves made as offseason begins

One day after the regular season ended, the first managerial moves were made on Monday as the Twins dismissed Ron Gardenhire after 13 seasons on the job and the Astros named A.J. Hinch their next manager.

And there figures to be more changes in the upcoming days and weeks. After all, coaches are usually the first casualties following disappointing seasons.

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There are now three teams looking for managers, with the Twins joining the D-backs and Rangers.

The Rangers are hoping to hire a new manager by the World Series, general manager Jon Daniels said Sunday. Among the candidates under consideration are interim manager Tim Bogar, Triple-A manager Steve Buechele and pitching coach Mike Maddux, in addition to a few candidates from other clubs. Daniels has yet to formally request permission to interview anyone outside of the organization.

The D-backs' search for a manager began Friday, when they let go of Kirk Gibson. Arizona has a new general manager in Dave Stewart and a new senior vice president of baseball operations in De Jon Watson. It did not take long for the club to hire Stewart and Watson when those positions opened, so that could mean a new manager is not far away.

The Twins' search for a new manager will include candidates from both inside and outside the organization. The remainder of the coaching staff will be put together by the new manager and general manager Terry Ryan. The contracts of Minnesota's seven coaches are all set to expire at the end of this year.

Gardenhire had one year remaining on a two-year contract he signed before the season. He became the Twins manager in 2002 and led the team to six American League Central division championships in his first nine years. But the Twins have finished last in the division in three of the last four seasons.

"This is a little bit of a difficult day for a lot of us," Ryan said during a news conference at Target Field on Monday. "We've been together with Ron for a long time. ... I think it was mutually agreed upon that we're going to go in this direction."

"I'm gone. I'm out of here because we didn't win," Gardenhire said. "That's what it gets down to in baseball. That's what it should get down to -- you have to win on the field. These last four years have been tough on us."

The Astros, meanwhile, are looking ahead to the future with Hinch at the helm.

Hinch managed Arizona from May 2009 to July 2010 and had a 89-123 record. After that, he served as the vice president of professional scouting for the Padres for four years. Hinch, 40, played 350 games over his Major League career with the A's, Phillies, Royals and Tigers.

"I am extremely excited to bring in A.J. as our new manager," said Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow. "Throughout our process, we searched for a person with previous Major League experience who could effectively lead our young, growing nucleus of talented players. I have no doubt that A.J. is the right person to do that. He brings experience as a Major League player, Major League manager and player development executive. His skill sets and leadership abilities will be enormous assets in our clubhouse and to our entire organization."

"I couldn't be more excited to be the manager of the Houston Astros," said Hinch, a catcher who won a bronze medal with the United States at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. "We have a lot of work to do to bring winning back to the city of Houston and Astros fans everywhere. I can't wait to get started toward that goal today."

Moving forward, there could also be some extensions for current managers. The Marlins extended Mike Redmond's contract through 2017, finalizing the deal on Sunday. Redmond was set to enter the final season of the contract he signed when he took over after the 2012 season.

Austin Laymance is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Plouffe has arm surgery, will be ready for spring

Plouffe has arm surgery, will be ready for spring

MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe underwent surgery on his fractured left forearm on Monday but will be ready for Spring Training next year, general manager Terry Ryan said.

Plouffe sustained the injury on Wednesday, when he tried to tag A.J. Pollock as Pollock slid into third base on a stolen-base attempt, with Pollock's knee colliding into Plouffe's left forearm.

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The Twins were hopeful Plouffe would avoid surgery, as the initial prognosis on Thursday from Dr. Thomas Varecka was positive. Plouffe tweeted out that he'd avoid surgery and need to wear a cast on his forearm for six to eight weeks.

But the Twins wanted a second opinion, and Plouffe visited the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., on Monday. After consulting with doctors, Plouffe underwent the surgery there on Monday.

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Rotation issues overshadow offensive breakout in 2014

Rotation issues overshadow offensive breakout in 2014

MINNEAPOLIS -- After losing at least 96 games in each of the previous three seasons, the Twins had much higher hopes for 2014.

They tried to bolster their rotation in the offseason by signing Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes and Mike Pelfrey to a combined $84 million worth, while also adding veteran catcher Kurt Suzuki on a one-year, $2.75 million contract. But while the Hughes and Suzuki additions worked out, the rotation was still a mess, leading to a fourth straight year with at least 90 losses and a last place finish in the American League Central for the third time in four seasons, which led to a managerial change, as Ron Gardenhire will be replaced next season.

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"The reason for this change I think it's safe to say the last couple years we've not won enough games, that's what it comes down to," Twins general manager Terry Ryan said. "He's done the best he could with the product that he's been given for the most part, and ultimately we just decided to come to this decision."

Twins starters combined to post the worst ERA in the Majors for a second straight season, as Hughes was their only consistent starter atop the rotation. Right-hander Kyle Gibson had some impressive stretches and showed flashes in his first full season, but still needs to be more consistent moving forward.

Nolasco had a forgettable year in the first season of a four-year, $49-million deal, while Pelfrey posted a 7.99 ERA in just five starts before undergoing season-ending elbow surgery in June. Right-hander Kevin Correia also had a 4.94 ERA in 23 starts before being traded to the Dodgers on Aug. 9.

Add it all up, and the Twins went through another trying season despite the offense breaking out in the second half and finishing among the league leaders in runs scored.

"You need a starting rotation to compete," Ryan said. "We've struggled in that area. Anybody will tell you if you don't have a rotation you can count on for a season, you're going to struggle, period. You can't keep putting pressure on your offense and your bullpen every night."

Record: 70-92, fifth place in AL Central.

Defining moment: When the Twins signed designated hitter Kendrys Morales on June 8, they were 29-32 and five games back of the division-leading Tigers, prompting Ryan to ask, "Why not us?" during Morales' introductory press conference. But the Twins went 17-22 with Morales to fall 11 games back of Detroit before trading him to the Mariners on July 24 for reliever Stephen Pryor to signify the Twins were sellers heading into the non-waiver Trade Deadline .

What went right: Hughes turned out to be one of the best offseason free-agent signings in baseball and quickly established himself as the club's ace. He reached the 200-inning mark for the first time in his career and finished near the top among pitchers in Wins Above Replacement (WAR), according to Fangraphs.com. … Brian Dozier didn't hit for a high average but still reached base plenty via walks en route to scoring more than 100 runs for the first time in his career. … Trevor Plouffe had his best season in the Majors, leading the team in RBIs and also improving his defense at third base. … Suzuki was a first-time All-Star and was one of the club's most consistent hitters throughout the season before signing a two-year contract extension on July 31. … Rookies Danny Santana and Kennys Vargas both had impressive seasons, especially Santana who was one of the team's best hitters, while also filling in capably in center field despite being a natural shortstop. … Closer Glen Perkins was an All-Star for the second straight year, but saw his season end in mid-September because of a strained left forearm.

What went wrong: Nolasco signed the biggest free-agent deal in franchise history, but struggled mightily in his first season with the Twins. He pitched better down the stretch after missing roughly seven weeks with right elbow soreness, but still finished the year with an ERA above 5.00. … First baseman Joe Mauer was expected to play more and perhaps put up better numbers offensively after moving away from catching due to a concussion suffered late in the '13 season, but it never materialized. Mauer had a down year offensively by his standards and missed more than a month with a strained oblique. … Pelfrey, who signed a two-year, $11-million deal before the season, made just five starts on the season before undergoing season-ending surgery. … Top prospects Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano both suffered through injury-plagued seasons. Buxton, ranked as the No. 1 overall prospect by MLB.com, played in just 31 Minor League games because of a sprained wrist and a season-ending concussion suffered in his first career Double-A Game on Aug. 13. Sano, ranked as the No. 7 prospect by MLB.com, missed the entire season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in March.

Hitter of the Year: Despite his low batting average, Dozier gets the nod by a narrow margin over Plouffe and Suzuki. Dozier finished among the league leaders in walks to offset his average, while showing off power and speed en route to becoming the first Twins player to have at least 20 homers and 20 stolen bases in a season since Torii Hunter in 2004. Among advanced statistics, he led Twins position players in WAR, with Plouffe finishing second.

Pitcher of the Year: Hughes was undoubtedly Minnesota's best pitcher and was one of the best pitchers in the Majors. He bounced back after posting a 5.19 ERA with the Yankees last year, and his three-year, $24-million deal now looks like a bargain. Hughes showed impeccable control, as he finished the year with the best single-season strikeout-to-walk ratio by a starting pitcher in Major League history.

Rookie of the Year: Santana was easily the best rookie on the team and figures to finish among the leading vote-getters for the AL Rookie of the Year voting, although White Sox slugger Jose Abreu has that award locked up. Santana played out of position most of the year in center field, but it was his offense that was most impressive, as he was a major catalyst atop the lineup, hitting for average and showing surprise extra-base power with plus-speed on the bases.

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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New arrivals: Youngsters ready to lead Twins?

New arrivals: Youngsters ready to lead Twins?

MINNEAPOLIS -- The 2014 season was expected to be a bridge year to competitive baseball for the Twins, but it didn't work out that way due to the ineptitude of the rotation and injuries to top prospects such as Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton.

The Twins realistically weren't going to win the American League Central, but were looking for a big improvement over their three consecutive seasons with 96-plus losses to set themselves up for the future with several top prospects on the way.

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Instead, another trying year led to a managerial change, as Ron Gardenhire won't be back next year. The Twins are now looking for just their third manager since 1986, when Tom Kelly replaced Ray Miller.

"Our next manager will have a lot of the same attributes Ron has," general manager Terry Ryan said. "For me, this will be an attractive job, I suspect. I really do believe that, as bad as things have gone the last four years."

Twins starters combined to post the worst ERA in the Majors for the second straight year despite the offseason signings of Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes and Mike Pelfrey for a combined $84 million. Buxton, ranked as the No. 1 overall prospect by MLB.com, played just 31 games in the Minors due to injury, while Sano, ranked as the No. 8 overall prospect, missed the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow, to push back both of their timelines to the Majors to some point next year.

Now, after Minnesota lost 90-plus games for the fourth straight year, Ryan is tasked with revamping the rotation yet again for '15, as the offense held its end of the bargain by finishing seventh in the Majors in runs scored.

"That's the biggest piece we need to address," Ryan said. "The rotation has been one of our problems. We've got a lot of work to do. You can't keep putting that much pressure on your offense. Our offense has responded pretty well and our bullpen held it together for quite a long time, but you keep going to get them night in and night out, you get into trouble."

The Twins should have some payroll flexibility in the offseason, but do have eight players eligible for arbitration. The Twins will look to improve the rotation and could also add a corner outfield bat via free agency or trade.

"I'm not worried about payroll," Ryan said. "We've got plenty of payroll. It's not an issue."

Free agents: RHP Jared Burton ($3.6 million club option with $200,000 buyout).

Eligible for arbitration: Brian Duensing, LHP; Anthony Swarzak, RHP; Trevor Plouffe, 3B; Jordan Schafer OF; Tommy Milone LHP; Casey Fien RHP; Eduardo Nunez INF; Eduardo Escobar SS

Catcher: The Twins are set at catcher after signing Kurt Suzuki to a two-year, $12-million extension on July 31. Suzuki had a career year at the plate and was named an All-Star for the first time in his career this season. He's also well-regarded behind the plate, although advanced statistics say he's below-average at pitch-framing. Josmil Pinto figures to be the backup, but he will need to continue to get better defensively, as his bat is Major League-ready but his issues behind the plate kept him in Triple-A most of the season.

First base: Joe Mauer had a down year by his standards in his first year at first base and also struggled to stay healthy, missing more than a month with an oblique strain. But the Twins believe he's primed to bounce back given his track record and he isn't moving off first base any time soon. Kennys Vargas figures to be his backup while serving as the primary designated hitter.

Second base: Brian Dozier further solidified his status at second base with a strong year, as he led Twins position players in Wins Above Replacement (WAR). He didn't hit for a high average but more than made up for it with a high walk rate and surprising power. He became the first Twins player to record a season with 20 homers and 20 stolen bases since 2004.

Shortstop: Escobar took over as the regular shortstop early in the season and was a pleasant surprise, as he was solid defensively and also cracked more than 40 extra-base hits. But Escobar has competition at shortstop, as Danny Santana had a breakout rookie season playing mostly out of position in center field due to the emergence of Escobar and the lack of options in center. Escobar and Santana are expected to compete for the shortstop role, which could relegate Escobar to a utility infield position. Nunez, who like Escobar is eligible for arbitration for the first time, figures to be a backup infielder if he's not non-tendered.

Third base: Plouffe had his best season as a pro, as he led the club in RBIs and doubles, while also showing some improvements defensively. He ranked second among Twins position players in WAR behind Dozier, but has to fend off top prospect Sano, who is likely to make his Major League debut early next summer. Sano, ranked as the No. 8 overall prospect by MLB.com, missed all of 2014 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. The Twins believe Sano can stick at third base, which means Plouffe could see another position change in his future, possibly even a corner outfield spot later in the season.

Outfield: The Twins are still waiting for their center fielder of the future, as Buxton missed most of the year because of a lingering wrist injury and a concussion suffered in his first Double-A game in August. But Buxton is expected to make his debut at some point next season if he can bounce back from his injuries. Santana was used as a stop-gap in center field in '14 and could start the year there again if they decide he's the best option and keep Escobar as the starting shortstop. Oswaldo Arcia is expected to be the club's regular in right field, while left field is up for grabs with options including a pair of former top prospects in Aaron Hicks and Schafer. The Twins could also look to free agency or trade to add another corner outfielder.

Designated hitter: Vargas hit well enough in his two-month stint after being called up from Double-A New Britain on Aug. 1 that he's expected to be the club's regular DH next year. Vargas still has plenty of work to do, including improving his walk rate, but has immense power. Mauer will also get occasional starts at DH, while Vargas will serve as Mauer's backup at first base.

Rotation: The rotation is easily the biggest question mark heading into next season, as Hughes was the club's only consistent starter in '14. Kyle Gibson showed plenty of potential in his first full season in the Majors, but still has some issues to work through. Nolasco is still owed $37 million over the next three years, but had a disastrous '14 season. Those three still figure to be a part of the rotation unless the Twins somehow find a taker for Nolasco in a salary dump, leaving two spots open for next year. Prospect Trevor May struggled in his first stint in the Majors but the Twins still like his potential. Fellow top prospect Meyer is also expected to join the rotation at some point next season. The Twins also have other options such as left-hander Milone and right-hander Pelfrey. But they could still look to free agency or trade to add another starter to a rotation that finished with the worst ERA in the Majors for the second straight year.

Bullpen: Closer Glen Perkins will anchor the bullpen yet again and was named an All-Star for a second straight season. He was shut down for the rest of the season in mid-September with a strained left forearm but will be ready for the start of next season. Fien figures to be the club's setup reliever again, while the Twins must decide whether to tender contracts to Duensing and Swarzak, who are both eligible for arbitration for a second time. They also have to decide whether to bring back Burton for $3.6 million or buy him out for $200,000. They have plenty of cost-controlled options for the bullpen such as Ryan Pressly, Caleb Thielbar, Aaron Thompson and Michael Tonkin. They could look to free agency to add a low-cost arm or two, but also drafted several highly regarded relievers such as Nick Burdi, Michael Cederoth and Jake Reed, who could move through the system quickly to the Majors. They could also move excess starters such as Pelfrey or Milone to the bullpen.

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Voting underway to decide Hank Aaron Awards

Help decide this season's top offensive performer in each league

Voting underway to decide Hank Aaron Awards

Voting is underway through Sunday exclusively at MLB.com to help decide the 16th annual winners of the Hank Aaron Award, given by "The Hammer" himself during the upcoming 110th World Series to the outstanding offensive performer in each league.

American League nominees include Nelson Cruz of Baltimore, David Ortiz of Boston, Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox, Michael Brantley of Cleveland, Victor Martinez of Detroit, Jose Altuve of Houston, Alex Gordon of Kansas City, Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels, Trevor Plouffe of Minnesota, Brett Gardner of the New York Yankees, Josh Donaldson of Oakland, Robinson Cano of Seattle, Evan Longoria of Tampa Bay, Adrian Beltre of Texas and Jose Bautista of Toronto.

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National League candidates include Paul Goldschmidt of Arizona, Justin Upton of Atlanta, Anthony Rizzo of the Chicago Cubs, Devin Mesoraco of Cincinnati, Justin Morneau of Colorado, Adrian Gonzalez of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Giancarlo Stanton of Miami, Jonathan Lucroy of Milwaukee, Daniel Murphy of the New York Mets, Andrew McCutchen of Pittsburgh, Matt Carpenter of St. Louis, Seth Smith of San Diego, Hunter Pence of San Francisco and Anthony Rendon of Washington.

Goldschmidt is going after his second straight Hank Aaron Award, having been the NL choice last year for the first time. Miguel Cabrera was the AL recipient each of the past two years, but V-Mart's nomination by Detroit means an end to that streak.

"As one of the game's most talented and respected players ever, it is appropriate that Major League Baseball recognizes the top offensive performers in each league with an award named in honor of Hank Aaron," Commissioner Bud Selig said. "Each of the nominees should be applauded for their outstanding seasons, which will make selecting just one winner in each league a difficult task for Hank, our Hall of Fame panel and our participating fans."

"I am honored to have my name on the award given by Major League Baseball to the top offensive performers in the game," Aaron said. "Each of the nominees is talented and deserving, which makes me grateful to have the assistance of my fellow Hall of Famers and the fans to help select the winners."

For the fifth consecutive year, a special panel of Hall of Fame players led by Aaron will join fans in voting for the award, which is officially sanctioned by MLB and has recognized the top offensive threat in each league since it was established in 1999.

The panel includes some of the greatest offensive players of all-time -- Roberto Alomar, Johnny Bench, Paul Molitor, Eddie Murray, Frank Thomas and Robin Yount. These Hall of Famers -- who combined for 16,956 hits, 8,844 RBIs and 2,109 home runs -- have been personally selected by Aaron to lend their expertise to select the best offensive performer in each league.

Do you go with a masher, like Stanton or Cruz? Or do you recognize a guy like Altuve, who led the Majors in batting average and led the AL in stolen bases? Home run kings often fare well in this process, but Chris Davis (53 homers) was trumped last year by Cabrera. And what about Trout, often referred to as the game's best player?

Past winners of the Hank Aaron Award include Cabrera and Goldschmidt (2013); Cabrera and Buster Posey (2012); Bautista and Matt Kemp (2011); Bautista and Joey Votto (2010); Derek Jeter and Albert Pujols (2009); Aramis Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis (2008); Rodriguez and Prince Fielder (2007); Jeter and Ryan Howard (2006); Ortiz and Andruw Jones (2005); Manny Ramirez and Barry Bonds (2004); Alex Rodriguez and Pujols (2003); Rodriguez and Bonds (2001-02); Carlos Delgado and Todd Helton (2000) and Manny Ramirez and Sammy Sosa (1999).

The award was introduced in 1999 to honor the 25th anniversary of Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's all-time home run record. At that time, it was the first major award introduced by MLB in more than 25 years.

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Twins fall short in final chance at playing spoiler

Gibson gives solid effort in matchup with Price as Tigers clinch

Twins fall short in final chance at playing spoiler

DETROIT -- Last year, the Twins had to watch three different teams celebrate clinching a postseason berth en route to losing 96 games for a second straight season.

This year, the Twins only had to witness one, and it came on the last day of the season. Minnesota couldn't keep the Tigers from celebrating their fourth straight American League Central crown despite a strong effort from Kyle Gibson, as he was outdueled by David Price in a 3-0 loss on Sunday afternoon at Comerica Park.

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Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said it's a learning experience for the club's younger players and he hopes it's something that can make them hungrier moving forward after watching the Tigers celebrate on the field after the final out. The Twins went 10-9 against Detroit this season, including wins on Friday and Saturday, but couldn't come through in the season finale.

"They should [watch] and it's what we talked about afterward," Gardenhire said. "We competed against some of the best teams in baseball in pennant races. I thought we handled ourselves well. We irritated them like we said we were going to do. So I was really proud of those guys, the way they got after the game."

The Tigers entered the day leading the second-place Royals by just one game, but clinched the division with the victory. They'll play the Orioles in the AL Division Series. The Twins finished the year at 70-92, a four-win improvement on each of the last two seasons, when they went 66-96 in 2012 and '13.

"I mean, 70 wins is not good even if it's better than last year and the year before," said second baseman Brian Dozier. "It's not enough wins. But that being said, it's night and day the improvements we've made, speaking for the offense."

The offense did the job this season, finishing fifth in the AL in runs scored with 715, but it was Gibson who shined in his last start of the season, though he did give up two late runs in the eighth.

Gibson allowed three runs on four hits and three walks over 7 1/3 innings, but was stuck with the hard-luck loss. The right-hander finished his first full season in the Majors going 13-12 with a 4.47 ERA in 31 starts totaling 179 1/3 innings.

"I would've rather not have the eighth inning be my last one of the year, but [the start] was good," Gibson said. "My fastball command has been the biggest thing the last couple starts. It's definitely something to build off of for next year."

The first run Gibson allowed came on a solo blast from Ian Kinsler with two outs in the third inning. Gibson was helped out by an impressive running catch from Aaron Hicks in center field to rob Miguel Cabrera of an RBI extra-base hit to end the sixth.

After Gibson issued a pair of one-out walks in the eighth, Kinsler gave Detroit an insurance run with an RBI single to left field, chasing Gibson from the game. Torii Hunter's sac fly off Lester Oliveros closed the book on Gibson, but Gardenhire was still proud of the way he pitched.

"He was really good against a good lineup on a big day like that," Gardenhire said. "They were trying to win a division, but he was fantastic."

But while Gibson was good, Price was even better. The left-hander threw 7 1/3 scoreless frames, scattering just four hits and two walks while striking out eight over 112 pitches. It was the type of performance the Tigers were looking for when they acquired him from the Rays in a blockbuster trade on July 31.

"It was a tough game, but you can't say anything more about David Price," Kinsler said. "The guy's a horse, and that's who you want on the mound right there."

Tigers closer Joe Nathan tossed a scoreless ninth to get his 35th save and preserve the win and AL Central crown for Detroit. Dozier was one of several Twins who stuck around to watch the on-field celebration, and he predicted it won't be long before his teammates do their own celebrating.

"I watched three times last year and watched it again [Sunday], and hopefully I won't have to anymore," Dozier said. "I've never been in the playoffs up here. It's always stabbing to the heart to watch guys do that, but I think it's always good for the young guys to see that. It's the best playoff atmosphere you can come close to without actually being in one. But we'll clinch soon."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Pesky Twins keep Tigers' celebration on hold

Escobar collects career-high six RBIs, contributing to six-run fifth

Pesky Twins keep Tigers' celebration on hold

DETROIT -- The Twins can't seem to stop scoring against the Tigers this season.

The Twins were spoilers yet again on Saturday night, as Ricky Nolasco threw six strong innings and was backed by a six-run fifth inning and a career-high six RBIs from Eduardo Escobar to hand the first-place Tigers a 12-3 loss at Comerica Park in the penultimate game of the regular season.

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The Twins' win prevented the Tigers from being able to clinch the American League Central on Saturday night, as their magic number is down to one after the Royals lost to the White Sox, 5-4, to remain a game behind Detroit with one to play.

"It's always cool to be the spoiler, but we play this game to be in their position," Nolasco said. "We just came out on top tonight. I know they have their backs against the wall, so we'll see what happens tomorrow."

The second win over the Tigers in as many nights helped the Twins reach 70 victories for the first time since 2010, when they won 94. Minnesota also improved to 10-8 against Detroit this year, scoring 6.6 runs per game in those contests. The Twins have scored 119 runs against the Tigers, which is just two short of the franchise record of 121 runs scored against Detroit, set in 2001.

"The balls just keep going in the right places," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We saw a lot of balls on the infield we outran. We chopped them. But it's about putting the ball in play and making things happen. I don't really have much of an explanation."

Nolasco was able to end his season on a high note, as he gave up just two runs on five hits and two walks, striking out six. Nolasco, who joined the Twins on a four-year, $49 million deal before the season, finishes the year 6-12 with a 5.38 ERA and said this win doesn't change his view on his season.

"I'm not going to go into the offseason feeling good about much," Nolasco said. "But it was good to help the team win today. I was just trying to do my job against a tough lineup and keep the ball down."

The Tigers struck in the second on a solo homer from Nick Castellanos, but they didn't score again until the sixth. After the Tigers loaded the bases with no outs, Castellanos brought home Detroit's second run with a groundout. But Nolasco got out of the jam thanks to a diving stop by second baseman Brian Dozier that robbed Alex Avila of a run-scoring hit, with Joe Mauer able to keep his toe on first base.

"It was a little scary from my view, but Joe was able to keep his foot on the bag," Nolasco said. "It was probably the turning point in the game."

The offense was quiet early against Tigers left-hander Kyle Lobstein before breaking out in the fifth. After the Twins loaded the bases with one out, Dozier brought home Minnesota's first run with a single to right field. Mauer gave the Twins their first lead with an RBI groundout to second.

After Kennys Vargas was intentionally walked, Eric Fryer singled to right to plate two runs before Oswaldo Arcia and Escobar connected on a pair of singles. Chris Herrmann singled to center, but Escobar was thrown out at third before Arcia could score, ending the frame. Still, the damage had been done.

"It's frustrating, for sure," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "Today was almost a carbon copy of yesterday. A couple of defensive mistakes, we didn't pitch well and you're in such a deep hole that it's tough to climb out of."

The Twins tacked on two insurance runs in the seventh, with Escobar and Herrmann both picking up RBI singles. Minnesota added four more runs in the eighth, starting with a solo homer from Dozier, his team-leading 22nd of the year. Escobar got his fourth hit of the night and reached a new career best in RBIs for one game with a three-run drive later in the frame.

"He had a good ballgame swinging the bat," Gardenhire said. "He's happy to be on the baseball field. He has that life and that energy."

The Twins have improved on their win total by four games from last year with one game remaining, but Gardenhire said there's no use celebrating winning 70 games.

"If it was Aug. 1," Gardenhire said. "It would feel great."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Twins set second opinion for Plouffe's arm fracture

Expected to be ready by spring, third baseman unlikely to need surgery

Twins set second opinion for Plouffe's arm fracture

DETROIT -- Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe will get a second opinion on his fractured left forearm on Monday at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

Plouffe, who sustained the injury on Wednesday as he tried to tag Arizona's A.J. Pollock on a slide into third base, saw Dr. Thomas Varecka in Minnesota on Thursday. Plouffe was told he won't need surgery and will need to wear a cast for six to eight weeks, but the Twins want to get a second opinion just in case.

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The Twins remain hopeful Plouffe won't need surgery, but even if he does, they expect him to be ready for the start of next season.

"We'll get him evaluated on Monday and go from there," Twins general manager Terry Ryan said.

Plouffe, 28, finished the year hitting .258/.328/.423 with 14 homers, 40 doubles and 80 RBIs in 136 games. He became the first Twins third baseman in franchise history to record 40 doubles in a season.

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Twins pounce on Tigers early, cruise to blowout

Arcia, Dozier each go deep, drive in three runs to dent Detroit's plans

Twins pounce on Tigers early, cruise to blowout

DETROIT -- The Twins would much rather be in contention this late in the season, but they've been a thorn in the Tigers' side all year and it was no different Friday night.

The Twins played the role of spoiler to perfection, as the offense knocked out Rick Porcello in the fourth inning en route to handing the first-place Tigers an 11-4 loss in the third-to-last game of the season at Comerica Park. Minnesota is 9-8 against Detroit, averaging 6.3 runs per game in those contests to help them to their most wins against the Tigers since 2009.

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"We know what's at stake here and where these guys are," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We're here to respect the game of baseball and play as hard as we can. I expect these guys to have a good time. We've been rooting for each other for a long time. A lot of guys are having fun and playing hard."

The Twins saw big performances from Danny Santana and Brian Dozier, who both had three hits, with Dozier collecting three RBIs, including a solo homer in the third. Oswaldo Arcia also had three RBIs, while Kurt Suzuki drove in a pair to help pace the offense.

Minnesota scored three runs in the first, with the first coming on just the second pitch of the game, as Santana doubled before scoring on a first-pitch RBI single from Dozier. Arcia added two runs on his homer with two outs to reach the 20-homer mark for the first time.

The visitors tacked on another run in the third on Dozier's solo blast, his team-leading 22nd homer. The Twins scored two more in the fourth to chase Porcello. But he wasn't helped by his defense, as both runs scored on a throwing error from third baseman Nick Castellanos with two outs.

"It was kind of just a weird day," said Porcello, who gave up six runs (four earned) over 3 2/3 innings. "I threw two pitches and gave up a run in the first inning, and I don't know if I've ever done that. That home run in the first definitely was tough to swallow."

Right-hander Anthony Swarzak was staked to a six-run lead as a result, but couldn't get through five innings to get the win in his fourth and final start of the year.

"I gave it everything I had," said Swarzak, who finishes 2014 with a 4.60 ERA in 86 innings. "I wish I could've had better results in the fourth and fifth innings. But most importantly, we got the win. We didn't get to watch the Tigers celebrate or anything."

Swarzak didn't give up his first hit until the fourth on a one-out double from Miguel Cabrera, who came around to score Detroit's first run on a single from Victor Martinez.

The Tigers made it interesting with two runs in the fifth on a pair of RBI singles from Ian Kinsler and Cabrera. Right-hander A.J. Achter came in to face Martinez, who connected on a deep fly ball to right field, but it was caught by Arcia for the second out. Achter escaped the jam by getting J.D. Martinez to fly out to center.

Achter, who pitched at nearby Michigan State and had roughly a dozen family members in attendance, remained in the game and gave up one run over two innings to get his first Major League win. The lone run he gave up came on a solo shot from Cabrera in the sixth.

"For it to happen here," said Achter, a 46th-round Draft pick in 2010, who grew up 60 miles south of Detroit in Toledo, Ohio. "It's just another thing in my career that's been pretty unbelievable."

The Twins blew the game open with a four-run sixth. Minnesota opened the frame with four straight hits, including an RBI double from Eduardo Escobar and an RBI single from Dozier. Suzuki laced a two-run single with two outs to help the Twins reach double digits in runs.

Minnesota tacked on yet another run in the eighth on a RBI single from Arcia. It helped keep Detroit's magic number to clinch the American League Central at two with Kansas City's win.

"We wanted to play the spoiler role this weekend and we got one tonight," Swarzak said. "I tip my cap to the bullpen for doing a phenomenal job."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Facing hometown club, Achter picks up first victory

With friends, family at Comerica Park, Twins reliever calls feeling 'unbelievable'

Facing hometown club, Achter picks up first victory

DETROIT -- Twins reliever A.J. Achter couldn't have scripted his first Major League win any better.

Achter, who grew up in nearby Toledo, Ohio, and played at Michigan State, tossed two strong innings in relief against his hometown Tigers to get his first victory in front of roughly a dozen family members and friends Friday night at Comerica Park.

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With the Twins clinging to a three-run lead in the fifth with two on and one out, Achter got Victor Martinez on a flyout to deep right field that died at the warning track before J.D. Martinez flied out to center. He gave up a solo homer to Miguel Cabrera in the seventh, but it came after the Twins rallied for four runs in the sixth to put the game away in an eventual 11-4 win.

"It was definitely the loudest environment I'd ever pitched in and the two biggest outs of my career," Achter said of the fifth inning. "It was pretty cool. Thankfully, with Kurt [Suzuki] behind the plate as an All-Star catcher, he calmed my nerves down pretty good."

Achter, 26, said it was even more special because he was able to give the game ball to his mother, Cindy, who beat breast cancer last year and made it to the game. Achter's father, Rod, wasn't able to make it because he was coaching high school football in the Toledo area.

Achter, who was taken in the 46th round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, said there will be even more family members and friends coming this weekend, including a party bus with more than 40 people coming to Sunday's season finale. But it'll be a tough act for Achter to follow after getting his first win just 60 miles north of where he grew up.

"The Tigers are the team I grew up rooting for and I think that's pretty well known," Achter said. "For it to happen here, it's just another thing in my career that's been pretty unbelievable."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Elbow issue may limit Schafer to pinch-running role

Twins outfielder remains out of starting lineup

Elbow issue may limit Schafer to pinch-running role

DETROIT -- Twins outfielder Jordan Schafer has been dealing with a nerve issue in his right elbow after hyperextending it and could be held out of the starting lineup for the rest of the season.

Friday marked the fourth time in five games he began the game on the bench. He suffered the injury while swinging a weighted bat in the on-deck circle Sept. 15, but tried to play through it, as the injury was to his non-throwing elbow.

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Schafer struggled since, hitting just .174 (4-for-23) with no extra-base hits. He's available to pinch-run, but still has trouble swinging the bat, making his return to the lineup before the last game of the season Sunday questionable. With Schafer out, Chris Herrmann made his second straight start in left field against the Tigers.

"He's day to day," Twins general manager Terry Ryan said. "He's been getting treatment but it's whatever he can withstand. He's available to pinch-run and all that. But will be able to get him to the swing the bat in the next couple days? I don't know about that."

Ryan added that Schafer's injury isn't deemed serious and will not warrant an MRI exam. Schafer, 28, has hit .285/.345/.362 with one homer, five doubles, one triple and 15 stolen bases in 41 games with the Twins since being claimed off waivers from the Braves on Aug. 3.

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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May caps rookie year with quality effort

Righty fans seven over six innings against playoff-bound Tigers

May caps rookie year with quality effort

DETROIT -- Trevor May admits his numbers from his first season in the Majors aren't what he had hoped, but the right-hander believes he made plenty of progress over his nine starts to make a case for the Twins' rotation next year.

May ended his season on a high note by registering a quality start, but the offense couldn't back him in a 4-2 loss to the Tigers on Thursday night at Comerica Park. May lasted six innings, giving up three runs on five hits, including homers to Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera, to fall to 3-6 with a 7.88 ERA.

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"It was one of the better ones and at the top of the list, but it wasn't as good as I wanted it to be," May said. "I would've liked to have come in, especially against a team competing for the playoffs, to take one from them. That would've been great. But I came in with the attitude that I was going to be aggressive and go right after guys and use that atmosphere as a learning experience."

Even though the ERA wasn't pretty, May made progress after starting his career with 13 walks and just three strikeouts over his first nine innings. His control got much better, as he struck out 41 and walked nine over his final 36 2/3 innings.

"I think it was a step in the right direction," May said. "I feel like I made a lot of steps in the right direction. I showed I have the ability to pitch well against a team like this."

He was hurt by the homers, as Martinez connected on a two-run blast in the first and Cabrera smashed a solo shot in the fourth.

May was ahead in the count on both homers, as Martinez's two-run homer came on a 1-2 curveball with two outs, while Cabrera hit an 0-2 slider to lead off the fourth.

"One was just a terrible pitch," May said. "The 0-2 slider to Miggy is supposed to be hit out, especially a hitter like that. The other one was a little bit better to Victor, but he's a guy who hits everything."

May was solid otherwise, striking out seven and issuing his only walk in the sixth, when he intentionally walked J.D. Martinez after Victor Martinez doubled with two outs. May was able to get out of the jam by striking out Nick Castellanos for his seventh and final strikeout of the night to end his season after 144 innings split between Triple-A and the Majors.

"For him to get that big strikeout to end the inning was huge," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It's a great way for him to end a season. He's pitched a lot of innings and that's a good way to go about your business at the end. That was an important out for him and leaves him going out on a good note."

The Twins made right-hander Max Scherzer work, as he needed 116 pitches to get through six innings, but they scored just two runs against him. He didn't give up his first hit until allowing a one-out double to Oswaldo Arcia in the fourth, but Scherzer had already walked three batters by that point.

"He had good stuff -- I think he was a little erratic at times with his location," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "As a result, his pitch count got up."

Minnesota didn't get on the board until the fifth, when Danny Santana and Brian Dozier both singled with two outs to set the stage for a two-run double from Joe Mauer. But after a walk from Kennys Vargas, Arcia flied out to shallow right field to end the inning.

Detroit got an insurance run in the seventh against reliever Ryan Pressly on a one-out RBI double from Rajai Davis. With the win, the Tigers reduced their magic number to clinch their fourth straight American League Central title to two.

"We missed some opportunities but that's a heck of a baseball team over there," Gardenhire said. "They're really fighting for it. But we were in it. We had our chances. Not too many of them. But our guys are getting after it pretty good."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Hughes turns down offer to pitch for bonus

Twins right-hander finishes one out shy of 210 innings for $500,000 incentive

Hughes turns down offer to pitch for bonus

DETROIT -- After Phil Hughes fell just one out short of earning a $500,000 bonus for reaching 210 innings on the season because of a rain delay Wednesday, the Twins offered him an opportunity to pitch in relief this weekend, but he declined, citing the health risks involved.

Hughes was at 96 pitches through eight innings against the D-backs and needed just one out in the ninth to receive a $500,000 bonus in his contract. He would've gone out for the final inning, but a 66-minute rain delay cost him the chance to reach that mark.

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So, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and general manager Terry Ryan called Hughes into the manager's office at Comerica Park before Thursday's game to tell him he could pitch in relief this weekend. But Hughes didn't take long to come to a decision, despite the amount of money involved.

"They extended the offer for me to pitch in the bullpen, but I just didn't think it was right," Hughes said. "If I were fighting for a playoff spot, I'd 100 percent be available. But given the circumstances, I don't think it's the right thing to do."

Hughes, who signed a three-year, $24 million deal before the season, already reached a pair of $250,000 bonuses for reaching 180 and 195 innings. His previous career high was 191 1/3 innings set in 2012 with the Yankees.

It wasn't just rain on Wednesday that cost Hughes a chance at 210 innings. Before a rainout on Sept. 12 pushed his scheduled start back a day, he was lined up for the season finale on Sunday.

"I owe too much to this organization for the next two years to risk getting hurt for an incentive," Hughes said. "My outing [Sept. 12] got rained out and the last inning of my last start got rained out, so for whatever reason it wasn't meant to be. There's a lot bigger problems out there. I'm proud of my season."

Ryan said he believed it was the right thing for the organization to do because the weather played a factor and because of the way Hughes pitched this season. He also added the Twins can't just give him the $500,000 bonus because of the rules of the contract.

"You'd have to restructure things," Ryan said. "So it's a little more complicated than meets the eye there."

Ryan also said the signing couldn't have worked out any better for the Twins and praised Hughes' character for his decision.

"He's a good man," Ryan said. "He's done a wonderful job for us. This guy is a quality guy."

Now that Hughes' season is officially done, he set Major League Baseball's single-season strikeout-to-walk ratio record. Hughes struck out 186 batters and walked just 16 on the season for an 11.63 strikeout-to-walk ratio to break Bret Saberhagen's record of 11.00 strikeouts per walk set in 1994.

If Hughes were to walk one more batter, he would fall below Saberhagen's mark. Instead, Hughes finishes with as many wins as walks (16), becoming just the third pitcher in the modern era to accomplish that feat with at least 15 wins. He also finished with a 3.52 ERA.

Hughes also wanted to thank the fans for their support, as many took to social media to tell him he deserved the $500,000 bonus. He joked that it's not often fans want players to be paid more, but said he's comfortable with the decision he made.

"That was very kind of them to appreciate what I've done this year," Hughes said. "If I would've reached this milestone over the course of my 32 starts, then so be it. But I didn't, so it is what it is."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Twins rename spring home CenturyLink Sports Complex

Twins rename spring home CenturyLink Sports Complex

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Twins' Spring Training facility in Fort Myers will be renamed the CenturyLink Sports Complex, the team announced Thursday. The naming rights for the facility -- currently known as the Lee County Sports Complex -- went to CenturyLink as part of an expansion of Minnesota's ongoing partnership with the company, which is the official communications provider for the Twins and Target Field.

The facility is currently undergoing a series of $48.5 million renovations. The first phase was completed for Spring Training 2014, and the second phase is scheduled for completion next spring, when the complex will open under its new name.

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"Hammond Stadium and the CenturyLink Sports Complex have had a great reputation over the years," Twins president Dave St. Peter said Thursday. "But I think the work we're doing here brings it back up to the top of the league."

The freshly anointed CenturyLink Sports Complex has been the location of the Twins' Spring Training camp and the franchise's player development center since 1991, and 2015 will be the team's 25th Spring Training at the complex. It is also home to the Fort Myers Miracle, Minnesota's Class A Advanced affiliate in the Florida State League, and the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Twins. The Miracle won the Florida State League championship this year.

The Twins' top two prospects, outfielder Byron Buxton and third baseman Miguel Sano, are also both currently in Fort Myers -- Buxton for the fall instructional league and Sano to rehab from Tommy John surgery.

Buxton, the No. 1 prospect in the game, spent much of the 2013 and '14 seasons with the Miracle. Sano, MLB's No. 7 overall prospect, also played for the Miracle in '13.

Buxton is preparing to play in the Arizona Fall League, St. Peter said Thursday. Sano is swinging a bat and throwing at about 80-90 percent capacity, and he may play winter ball in the Dominican Republic.

The CenturyLink Sports Complex includes Hammond Stadium, the Twins' Player Development Academy, five additional baseball fields and four softball fields. Hammond Stadium, expanded to a seating of capacity of 9,300 in the first round of upgrades, will also be the focus of the Phase II renovations for next spring.

St. Peter said the second round of renovations will have a similar goal in mind to the first, which included mural-sized depictions of important moments in Twins history and blown-up renderings of vintage Twins baseball cards adorning the walls of the Player Development Academy.

"You will see a lot of branding and a lot of attention to detail, all focused on trying to tell stories," St. Peter said. "Telling stories about the Twins, about Lee County, about the Miracle, and ultimately about what this franchise has meant to our fans."

The stadium's concourses, concessions, restrooms, individual and group seating, clubhouses, retail store, administrative offices and media facilities are all slated to be renovated by Spring Training 2015. CenturyLink will also install a fully converged network and several Internet upgrades.

On Thursday, in conjunction with the naming rights announcement, a hard-hat tour was given of the upgrades that are in-progress. The Hammond Stadium concourse and clubhouse areas are all under heavy construction, but they surround a baseball field in perfect playing condition.

"This is going to be some facility," Lee County commissioner Brian Hamman said.

David Adler is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Mauer returns from one-game rest for elbow

Twins first baseman held out after getting plunked against D-backs

Mauer returns from one-game rest for elbow

DETROIT -- After missing Wednesday's game with a right elbow contusion, Twins first baseman Joe Mauer returned to the lineup on Thursday in the series opener against the Tigers.

Mauer sustained the injury when getting hit with a pitch right above the elbow in the first inning of Tuesday's game against the D-backs. He was held out of the lineup for precautionary reasons Wednesday.

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But Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said Mauer felt better on Thursday, and wanted to use his best players against the first-place Tigers, who entered the four-game series with a two-game lead over the Royals in the American League Central.

"I think he's OK. He took it right off the elbow so it was barking pretty good. But it could be worse. We wanted to give him an extra day yesterday."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Plouffe may avoid surgery for forearm fracture

Twins third baseman expected to be ready for Spring Training

Plouffe may avoid surgery for forearm fracture

DETROIT -- Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe saw a specialist in the Twin Cities on Thursday who recommended no surgery would be needed for his fractured left forearm, but general manager Terry Ryan said Plouffe will get a second opinion.

Plouffe suffered the injury in the sixth inning of Wednesday's game, when Plouffe attempted to tag Arizona's A.J. Pollock as he slid into third base as part of a double steal with nobody out. Pollock's knee collided with Plouffe's forearm to cause the fracture.

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Plouffe saw Dr. Thomas Varecka on Thursday, and Plouffe tweeted that he won't need surgery and will just need to wear a cast for six to eight weeks. But Ryan said Plouffe will get a second opinion to make sure he doesn't need surgery. Either way, Ryan said Plouffe will be ready for the start of Spring Training.

"We're going to get a second opinion," Ryan said. "It's just a decision on surgery or not. We'll do that in the very near future. But the break was clean, which is good. Now, it's just a matter of whether he needs surgery."

Plouffe, 28, was one of the club's best hitters this year. He ended the season with a .258/.328/.423 slash line with 14 homers, 40 doubles and 80 RBIs in 136 games. He became the first Twins third baseman in franchise history to record 40 doubles in a season.

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Twins lose challenge on pickoff attempt

Safe call stands as Kinsler returns to 1B on Pressly's quick move

Twins lose challenge on pickoff attempt

DETROIT -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire lost his challenge in the seventh inning of Thursday night's game against the Tigers.

With Ryan Pressly on the mound and two outs, Pressly threw over to first base to try to pick off Ian Kinsler, who reached via a fielding error from third baseman Eduardo Escobar. Kinsler was ruled safe by first-base umpire Lance Barrett on a close play.

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Gardenhire came out to challenge, and after a short review, the call on the field stood upon replay and Kinsler remained safe at first base. Pressly got out of the inning by inducing a groundout to shortstop from Torii Hunter.

Gardenhire has now challenged 37 plays this year with 20 calls overturned.

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Hughes sets K/BB record in Twins' final home victory

Two early runs enough for Minnesota as righty makes history

Hughes sets K/BB record in Twins' final home victory

MINNEAPOLIS -- A one-hour, six-minute rain delay in the middle of the eighth inning kept Phil Hughes just one out away from a $500,000 bonus for reaching 210 innings on the year, but it didn't stop him from making history.

Hughes ended his season on a high note and set Major League Baseball's single-season strikeout-to-walk ratio in the process, as he tossed eight strong innings to lead the Twins to a 2-1 win over the D-backs on Wednesday afternoon in the last home game of the year at Target Field.

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Hughes gave up just one run on five hits, while striking out five without issuing a walk to finish the year 16-10 with a 3.52 ERA. He also struck out 186 batters and walked just 16 on the season for an 11.63 strikeout-to-walk ratio to break Bret Saberhagen's record of 11.00 strikeouts per walk, set in 1994. Hughes didn't walk a batter in 19 of his 32 starts, and he walked more than one in just two outings to become the first player in the modern era (since 1901) to throw at least 200 innings and walk 16 or fewer batters.

"It's something I certainly thought about," said Hughes, who knew he had a chance to break the strikeout-to-walk record four starts ago. "I've always taken a lot of pride in not walking guys and throwing strikes. So finishing that out today is a pretty cool way to do it. It's something I'm very proud of. You look at those names and it's a pretty elite group."

But Hughes also was just one out away from a $500,000 bonus as a result of the rain delay, as he finished the year with 209 2/3 innings to fall just short of his 210-innings goal. Hughes said he hasn't yet heard from the front office whether it will still reward him because it was caused due to the rain delay in the eighth inning.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said Hughes would've gone back out for the ninth if not for the delay, as he was only at 96 pitches. He also added that Hughes won't pitch in relief this weekend against the Tigers to reach 210 innings. But Hughes said he was still more than happy with the way his season ended, even if he doesn't get the bonus.

"I was very aware of it, but some things aren't meant to be," Hughes said. "I'm very proud of my season regardless of that."

Hughes has been Minnesota's best starter throughout the season, and it was again the case against the D-backs. It didn't come as a surprise to Gardenhire, who said he was in awe of Hughes breaking the strikeout-to-walk record.

"A lot of things are amazing with what he's done, and that's probably the most unique," Gardenhire said. "That's unbelievable. You just don't see things like that."

The D-backs scored their lone run against him in the sixth, when A.J. Pollock and Jake Lamb both singled to open the inning. Both runners advanced on a double steal that also led to Trevor Plouffe sustaining a season-ending fractured left forearm on Pollock's slide into third.

David Peralta brought home the run for Arizona with a sacrifice fly to left field. But Hughes got out of the jam by striking out Jordan Pacheco to end the inning.

The offense did just enough to back Hughes despite putting D-backs left-hander Vidal Nuno on the ropes early, as they loaded the bases in both the first and second innings, but only came away with one run each frame.

The Twins opened the scoring with a bases-loaded walk from Kurt Suzuki with one out in the first, but they couldn't score after that. Oswaldo Arcia popped out and Josmil Pinto struck out to end the potential rally.

It was more of the same in the second, as Minnesota loaded the bases with one out and scored on a sacrifice fly from Plouffe to center field, but couldn't add on as Kennys Vargas struck out to end the inning.

But it was just enough for Hughes, who helped the Twins to the series win over the D-backs. Minnesota also finished the year with a 35-46 record at home by winning the Target Field finale.

"It's good and gives us something the fans wanted to see on the last day, but at the same time, it wasn't the year we all wanted," second baseman Brian Dozier said. "Whether we won the last one or not, we didn't win enough, and that's what it boils down to."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Gardenhire expresses desire to be part of Twins' turnaround

GM Ryan, owner Pohlad to make decision on manager's future

Gardenhire expresses desire to be part of Twins' turnaround

MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has mostly been quiet about his future with the organization this season, but he reiterated on Wednesday that he wants to be a part of turning around the franchise after its fourth straight season with at least 90 losses.

Gardenhire, who still has one year left on his two-year deal signed before this season, has been the subject of rumors regarding his future with the club. Gardenhire, however, made it clear he still wants to remain as manager, but he acknowledged the decision will ultimately be made by owner Jim Pohlad and general manager Terry Ryan.

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"I've always said this is my home," Gardenhire said. "It's where I like it. I love the organization. I love this area. The whole package. Why wouldn't you want to be here? This is as good as it gets. But I'm all for whatever's best for the organization, too."

Ryan said no decision has been made yet and that he plans on meeting with Gardenhire during the last road trip in Detroit that begins on Thursday to discuss the manager's future. Ryan said they'll also discuss any possible changes to the coaching staff. He also added any decisions will be made public shortly after the season ends.

"The last road trip we usually get together and discuss what went right and what went wrong," Ryan said. "We'll plan for the future."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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No twin for this: Hughes breaks strikeout-to-walk record

Minnesota righty passes Saberhagen with unmatched 11.63 ratio

No twin for this: Hughes breaks strikeout-to-walk record

Phil Hughes likely closed the book on his first season in a Twins jersey Wednesday, and he sealed it as a historic one.

The right-hander made his 32nd -- and what is expected to be his final -- start of the season, striking out five without walking a batter over eight innings, his outing cut short by rain against the D-backs in Minnesota. In doing so, Hughes has solidified his place in the record books with the best strikeout-to-walk ratio for a single season in baseball history.

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With his outing Wednesday, Hughes will finish the year with an 11.63 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Bret Saberhagen, who previously held the record, recorded 11.0 strikeouts for every walk while with the Mets in 1994.

Cliff Lee is third on the all-time list with a 10.28 ratio in 2010, and Jim Whitney holds the fourth and fifth spots, respectively, after historic seasons in 1884 (10.00) and '83 (9.86).

Hughes, who walked just 16 batters all season (and struck out 186) in 209 2/3 innings, also leads the Majors with a 0.69 walks per nine innings rate. Entering Wednesday, Seattle's Hisashi Iwakuma was second at 1.095.

Joey Nowak is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Gibson's solid outing leads Twins past D-backs

Parmelee comes through in a pinch to key offense in three-run second

Gibson's solid outing leads Twins past D-backs

MINNEAPOLIS -- Kyle Gibson has seen his fair share of ups and downs in his first full season in the Majors.

He's been one of the club's better starters, but has scuffled recently while pitching in September for the first time in his career. Gibson, though, looked much better Tuesday night, as he turned in his first quality start in more than a month, while Trevor Plouffe added four hits to lead the Twins to a 6-3 win over the D-backs at Target Field.

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"He gave us a great opportunity to win," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We had some nice swings out there. Plouffe had a really good night. We didn't have one really big inning, but we put some on the board and kept adding on."

Gibson, who had a 7.55 ERA over his last six starts, turned it around in his second-to-last outing of the year. The right-hander gave up just one run on seven hits while tying a career high with eight strikeouts to register his first quality start since Aug. 13. He also improved to 13-11 with a 4.50 ERA on the season. He said it was important to end on a high note in his final start of the year at home, as he's been working hard to make the necessary changes to get out of his recent rut.

"It's always good to have a good outing and make adjustments," said Gibson, who will start the final game of the season on Sunday against the Tigers. "I've been working hard in the bullpen on fastball command. When it translates into the game, it's always a good thing."

The D-backs scored their lone run against Gibson in the fourth on a two-out RBI single from Chris Owings to score Jake Lamb, who led off the inning with a double. Gibson promptly picked Owings off at first base to get out of the inning to end only one of a few scoring threats for Arizona against Gibson.

"He had good stuff," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "He had a real good sinker, good slider, kept the ball down, was sneaky. We haven't seen him before and he threw the ball very well for them tonight."

Gibson outpitched Arizona rookie Andrew Chafin, who was making just his third career start. The left-hander lasted three-plus innings, surrendering four runs on seven hits and two walks to get his first career loss.

The Twins, who saw a four-hit performance from Plouffe, got out to an early lead with a three-run second inning. Eduardo Escobar, making his first start at shortstop since jamming his right shoulder on Sept. 16, brought home the first run with a bloop RBI single to right field and went to second on the throw home. Pinch-hitter Chris Parmelee, who replaced Joe Mauer after he left with a right elbow contusion, plated two more runs with a single to left, but was thrown out trying to stretch it to a double to end the inning.

"He flipped one right down the line," Gardenhire said. "You have to be ready off the bench because you never know what will happen, and he was. It was a big situation."

Minnesota added a run in the fourth, as Eduardo Nunez doubled to lead off the inning and came around to score on an RBI single from Aaron Hicks. The Twins tacked on an insurance run in the fifth, when Josmil Pinto grounded into a run-scoring double play. Pinto gave the Twins another run in the seventh on a sacrifice fly to left field.

The D-backs scored in the eighth against reliever Casey Fien on an RBI groundout from Mark Trumbo and again in the ninth against closer Jared Burton, but it wasn't enough. The victory snapped a three-game losing streak for the Twins, who won their 67th game to mark their highest win total since 2010, as they won 63 games in 2011 and 66 games in '12 and '13.

"The bullpen guys came in and did OK," Gardenhire said. "It was a nice win for our baseball team."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Feeling better, Milone aims to pitch against Tigers

Feeling better, Milone aims to pitch against Tigers

MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins left-hander Tommy Milone said the inflammation in his neck has subsided, and hopes to pitch in relief this weekend against the Tigers in the final series of the year.

Milone, who hasn't pitched since Sept. 2 and received a cortisone shot in his neck last week, threw a bullpen session without any issues on Monday. He said the plan is to take off Tuesday and Wednesday, but will be available to pitch out of the bullpen at some point in Minnesota's four-game series against Detroit that begins on Thursday.

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"I'm hoping to get in there in relief," Milone said. "I haven't pitched in a while, so my pitch count isn't going to be very high. So at the most, maybe like two innings. I think the most important thing is just finish the year healthy. If it's one inning, it's one inning."

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he wants to find the right time to get Milone into a game, as he plans on putting his best team on the field against the first-place Tigers and doesn't want Milone to pitch in a high-leverage situation because he's been out so long.

"Those are high intensity baseball games and he wasn't pitched in a while, so we're going to have to find a way to get him an inning or two if we possibly can," Gardenhire said. "I know he wants to pitch. We're going to try to find a way to do it, but the games are going to dictate that."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Twins unable to pick up struggling Nolasco in loss

Righty allows five runs on nine hits over just 4 2/3 innings

Twins unable to pick up struggling Nolasco in loss

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins reached a dubious mark Monday night, as they reached 90 losses for a fourth straight season while also clinching last place in the American League Central for the third time in four years.

It came with Ricky Nolasco on the mound, as he didn't get through the fifth inning and turned in yet another clunker to hand the Twins a 6-2 loss to the D-backs at Target Field. It dropped the Twins to 66-90 to mark just the second time in franchise history they've lost at least 90 games in four consecutive years, as they also did it from 1997-2000.

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Nolasco, who fell to 5-12 with a 5.47 ERA in the first season of a four-year, $49 million deal signed before the season, has factored heavily into the club's struggles and said even a strong start in his last outing of the year on Saturday against the Tigers won't change the way he'll look at his season.

"There's nothing I can do that's going to make me OK for the offseason," Nolasco said. "It's been a terrible year. I'm just trying to finish the year healthy. But there's nothing I can do to fix it from here on out."

Nolasco had been pitching better of late, as he had a 3.09 ERA over his last five starts, including allowing just one run over his previous two starts totaling 15 innings. He started with four scoreless frames before suffering through a five-run fifth inning. The right-hander gave up five runs on nine hits and a walk over 4 2/3 innings in his shortest outing since July 6.

"Nolasco has been a guy we've had some trouble with in the past and the guys made good adjustments in the game," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "He got some curveballs up and we hit some early sliders."

Nolasco cruised early, but it all fell apart in the fifth, as Nolasco gave up three straight hits to open the inning, including an RBI double to Didi Gregorius. Ender Inciarte brought home a run with an RBI groundout before Gregorius scored on a wild pitch. After a single from A.J. Pollock, Nolasco served up a two-run blast to Mark Trumbo to give Arizona a 5-1 lead.

"He just didn't make any pitches in that inning," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Trumbo, he left one out and over the plate, and he killed that ball. He was doing all right up until that point. But he had one bad inning and just kept flipping them up there and couldn't finish off a hitter and finally the big explosion."

It helped back D-backs right-hander Josh Collmenter, who gave up two runs on five hits and a walk over 6 1/3 innings to get his 11th win. He also received an insurance run in the eighth on an RBI groundout from Chris Owings off reliever Michael Tonkin.

"He had a great changeup," Gardenhire said. "Even the home-plate umpire said his changeup was unbelievable. He has funk and keeps the ball behind his head."

The Twins opened the scoring with a run in the third on a two-out RBI single from Chris Herrmann, but didn't score again until the seventh. Kurt Suzuki led off the inning with a double before Collmenter was removed with one out. Left-hander Oliver Perez came in and walked Aaron Hicks before giving up an RBI single to pinch-hitter Josmil Pinto.

But the Twins couldn't add on after Pinto's RBI single, as they went 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position on the night en route to their third straight loss.

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Twins recognize Vargas, Berrios with organizational honors

Twins recognize Vargas, Berrios with organizational honors

MINNEAPOLIS -- A pair of Puerto Rico natives earned honors from the Twins on Monday, as the club named first baseman/designated hitter Kennys Vargas and right-hander Jose Berrios the organization's player and pitcher of the year, respectively.

It's the second major honor for both Vargas and Berrios, as they also both represented the Twins in the Sirius/XM Futures All-Star Game at Target Field on July 13. Vargas is currently with the Twins, while Berrios ended the year at Triple-A Rochester after making a spot start there at the end of the season.

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"I think Vargas and Berrios were certainly worthy of those selections," Twins general manager Terry Ryan said. "Vargas jumped up two levels to get here and Berrios jumped up a couple levels throughout the course of the summer. Both of them have a chance to be good for a long time up here."

Vargas, the recipient of the 2014 Sherry Robertson Award, started the year at Double-A New Britain and hit .281/.360/.472 with 17 doubles, 17 home runs, 63 RBIs, 50 runs and 43 walks in 97 games. The 24-year-old has been with Minnesota since Aug. 1.

With the big league club, Vargas has hit .288/.303/.480 with nine doubles, one triple, nine home runs, 38 RBIs and 24 runs in 47 games. He found out he won the award on Sunday night at the Twins' annual team dinner.

"For me, it's an honor to be selected the Minor League Player of the Year," Vargas said. "I worked very hard for that. I worked hard for six years and got a lot of help from the Minor League coaching staffs and teammates. And I'll keep working hard to maybe be selected as an All-Star player or something and hopefully reach the World Series."

Berrios, 20, is ranked fifth in the Twins' system by MLB.com. The six-foot, 187-pound right-hander began the season with Class A Fort Myers and went 9-3 with a 1.96 ERA. Berrios allowed 78 hits and 23 walks while striking out 109 in 16 starts, then was promoted to New Britain on July 7. Over eight starts there, he went 3-4 with a 3.54 ERA before hitting the disabled list on Aug. 2 with a right shoulder strain. Berrios also made one start with Rochester, allowing six runs in three innings on Aug. 31.

"You know what we think about Vargas because he's up here, but we think equally of Berrios," Ryan said. "He's one of the better ones we have. He's not the biggest kid we have, but he's very athletic and is one of the hardest-working kids we have."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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