Notes: Twins keeping things loose

Notes: Twins keeping things loose

TORONTO -- The Minnesota Twins clubhouse is a prankster's paradise, a playpen for grown men. The stereo is always pounding, players chat around the card table, deal dominoes, watch movies and play video games. Seldom does more than a minute pass without peals of laughter coming from a corner of the room.

Now that noted joker Corey Koskie has joined the Toronto Blue Jays, pitchers Carlos Silva and Johan Santana have taken over as Minnesota's clubhouse clowns.

"These guys are crazy over here," said outfielder Torii Hunter. "Johan Santana and Carlos Silva, they lead the way, they're pretty funny guys. They keep you up all night so you can't sleep."

In their latest bit, the pair hijacked manager Ron Gardenhire's pregame press conference on Sunday. Santana, with his skipper's glasses perched on the end of his nose, calmly discussed the lineup while Silva, honoring Canada's bilingual tradition, translated Santana's answers into "French."

Gardenhire deserves much of the credit for Minnesota's laid-back ways.

"I try to keep it as loose as I can," said the fourth-year manager. "There's so much pressure in this game, my job is to make sure each and every player feels comfortable."

Gardenhire may be loose, but that doesn't mean anything goes.

"These guys know there's a line, and they know not to cross the line or we'll have a meeting," he said. "They know I'm kind of an in-your-face guy. If I've got smething to say, I say it and then we get it over with. I don't hold grudges."

He's more relaxed than predecessor Tom Kelly, but Gardenhire wasn't always so mellow.

"My first year managing, I was pretty tense," he recalled of his days in the Minors. "I snapped a little more at guys, but it was younger guys, guys that really needed it. They needed more direction in just growing up, on and off the field. I was tougher back then."

Injury updated: Catcher Joe Mauer (sore groin) missed his fifth straight game Sunday, but should be back behind the plate when the Twins come home to face Cleveland on Tuesday.

Gardenhire said he considered starting Mauer at designated hitter on Sunday, but changed his mind.

"That's the right thing to do, rather than take a chance and do something silly," he said.

Mauer did some pregame catching drills in the bullpen, while Mike Redmond started. Matthew LeCroy was the designated hitter Sunday, meaning the Twins would lose their designated hitter if LeCroy was forced to go behind the plate.

Nick Punto started at second base in place of Luis Rivas, who is battling muscle soreness in his back.

"He's been fighting that off and on," Gardenhire said of Rivas. "We're definitely going to get him checked out when we get home."

Punto dropped a bunt down the third-base line in the first inning of Sunday's game, extending his hitting streak to a career-best 12 games.

Mulholland's memories: Coming to Toronto brings back good and bad memories for veteran lefty Terry Mulholland. With his father looking on, Mulholland pitched the Philadelphia Phillies to a 6-4 victory in Game 2 of the 1993 World Series.

"Game 2 was fond," he said. "I enjoyed being the winner pitcher in Game 2, starting against Dave Stewart. But that was early in the series. The way it unfolded in Game 6 wasn't all that good."

Mulholland started again in the decisive Game 6, but didn't get a decision. Of course, that game ended on the sourest of notes for the Phils, when Joe Carter's three-run home run off Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams gave Toronto back-to-back World Series wins.

"On an annual basis, ESPN Classic seems to do us all a big favor and remind us just how heart-wrenching that loss was," Mulholland said.

"It was a good time, it was a lot of fun playing in the World Series. But ultimately, the way it ended, nobody wants to experience that. It's tough enough to lose, but to lose in that fashion, with two outs in the ninth inning. It's the kind of stuff you envision yourself being on the other end of when you're a kid playing in the back yard."

On deck: The Twins are off Monday before coming home to open a three-game series against the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday. Silva (3-2, 2.85 ERA) faces C.C. Sabathia (3-3, 3.59 ERA) in the opener. Game time is 7:10 p.m. CT.

Ian Harrison is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.