Notes: Guerrier in sophomore slump

Notes: Guerrier in sophomore slump

MINNEAPOLIS -- For Matt Guerrier, last season was a time to adjust to life in the bullpen. But his second year hasn't been without some problems, as he has had to deal with a bit of the sophomore blues.

In only his second year up with the big league club, it hasn't quite been the start that Guerrier had anticipated. In five appearances totaling 6 2/3 innings, Guerrier has allowed six earned runs for an ERA of 8.10.

The struggles continued in his most recent outing for the Twins on Wednesday night. Replacing starter Kyle Lohse in the fourth inning, Guerrier allowed both inherited runners to score, along with giving up a run of his own in the fifth.

It was the second straight outing that Guerrier seemed to have troubles, as he allowed three runs to the Yankees in two-thirds of an inning on Sunday. It hasn't been a case where Guerrier feels poorly about his pitches, but rather his ability to work the hitters the way he would like.

"I just haven't been getting ahead in the count," Guerrier said. "I felt against the Yankees like I was going right at them, throwing strikes and still getting hit. Yesterday, maybe that was in the back of my mind and I was throwing away from contact a little bit. Getting down is tough, because being 1-0 is a lot harder than being 0-1."

Guerrier has been trying to be a little too precise with his pitches, but it still could be a part of the pitcher's learning curve. Last year was his first full season in the bullpen. He finished the year with a 3.39 ERA, allowing 27 earned runs over 71 2/3 innings pitched. With such a strong debut, it was easy for expectations to be raised.

But Guerrier knows it will take some adjustments to build upon what he accomplished last year.

"I think a lot of times last year, guys had never seen me and I was getting away with certain pitches you don't usually get away with," Guerrier said. "Now maybe they know they will see a curveball or a fastball on a good hitting count. So, definitely you have to pick up your game a little bit now that people have seen you a bit more."

The ups and downs aren't uncommon, especially in a player's second season. And despite Guerrier's tendency early to fall behind in counts, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire isn't too concerned about his long reliever.

"I don't think Guerrier is where he wants to be yet," Gardenhire said. "But I think in a matter of time, he will be."

Good sign: One of the best things to come out of Wednesday's win might have been the improved at-bats shown by the entire Twins club.

Adding veteran hitters like Luis Castillo, Tony Batista and Ruben Sierra to the lineup was something that Gardenhire knew could change the complexity of his team's offense, but he really saw its effects in the later innings.

"We had good at-bats from the sixth inning on," Gardenhire said. "We really pushed the issue, kept battling and got a lot of two-out hits."

The Twins don't seem to have a problem battling back from deficits. Part of that has been that opposing pitchers have had to face more threats in the Twins' lineup. That was apparent when Sierra came to the plate to face Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez in the ninth inning with a runner on first.

"Rodriguez knew that if he made a mistake, he was going to get hurt," Gardenhire said. "That was the presence we have been searching for. Having him there with a few other guys, there's a presence there that you have to make some pitches. It carries over and that was nice to see."

Changes in the outfield: The Twins outfield had a different look on Thursday, with both Lew Ford and Michael Cuddyer getting starts.

Gardenhire has been mixing and matching the two for the right field spot, but with Shannon Stewart absent from the team on Thursday, Gardenhire started Ford in left and Cuddyer in right. Stewart missed Thursday's game as he flew home to Miami to be with his wife Sharonda for the birth of their first child.

The shakeup in the outfield could continue on Friday, as Gardenhire might start Rondell White in left field. Though left has been the spot White has played consistently through his career, Gardenhire has been having White take fly balls in right to possibly give him more time in the outfield.

"It will probably happen tomorrow night on the grass, where I feel more comfortable doing that," Gardenhire said of White's first start in the outfield. "The best-case scenario is left, because that's where he's most comfortable at. But he's been working out there in right and I told him to take fly balls out there to mix him in there with the other guys."

Coming up: The Twins head to Chicago for the start of a nine-game road series against three of their division rivals. It will start with three games against the White Sox as southpaws Mark Buehrle and Johan Santana square off in the 7:30 p.m. CT start on Friday.

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.