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Notes: Radke remaining in rotation

Notes: Radke remaining in rotation

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MINNEAPOLIS -- Even with the struggles that Brad Radke has gone through of late, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire reiterated on Friday that the 12-year veteran will remain in the team's starting rotation.

"It's not like next time is his last time -- Radke is in the rotation," Gardenhire said. "He's been there for a long time, and we're to the point where we don't have options and Radke is it. He needs to pitch better, bottom line, and he knows it."

Radke had troubles in his last outing on Wednesday against the Indians. The right-hander gave up six runs on 11 hits over 5 2/3 innings while throwing 101 pitches.

The Twins haven't avoided taking some of their veteran pitchers out of the mix so far this season. Starter Carlos Silva was the first to be moved when the decision was made to put him in the bullpen after he struggled to get his sinker down. That same week, Kyle Lohse, who had been in the rotation since joining the Twins in 2001, was demoted to Triple-A Rochester due to his ERA of nearly 9.00.

So the question has remained as to when Radke would be moved, given his struggles similar to Silva and Lohse.

It wasn't just the bad outing against Cleveland that hurt Radke. Over his last four starts, the right-hander has given up a total of 19 earned runs. He has recorded just one quality start this season and has struggled to keep the ball down in the zone, resulting in the 14 home runs he has given up through 10 starts.

Radke's veteran experience and the lack of other options, though, have made a change an unlikely event for the Twins.

"You just don't have enough people to keep taking everybody out who gets hit around in a game," Gardenhire said. "We need Radke to go back out and have a better outing. That's all you can do. He just didn't have a good outing, and now we have to go on past that and go to the next outing."

Settling the table: When Shannon Stewart went down with a left foot injury, the Twins' leadoff spot was left open, and it was thought that Luis Castillo might be just the man to fill the spot.

So far, that has not been the case.

Early in Spring Training, Gardenhire debated between Stewart and Castillo for the leadoff spot. But since Stewart landed on the 15-day disabled list on Monday, Gardenhire has kept using the team's left fielder in the top slot.

Lew Ford filled in atop the Twins' order in the first two games during Stewart's absence, and with Jason Kubel starting in left on Friday, he also got the nod as the team's table setter.

Despite Kubel's limited experience in the leadoff spot, with only 18 total at-bats at the Major League level and practically none in the Minors, Gardenhire said that he still felt Kubel was the best choice for the spot.

"It's not like we have that many options at leadoff," Gardenhire said. "If I move Castillo to leadoff, then I've got probably Kubel second and you have two lefties back to back with [Joe] Mauer. Then you give the opportunity for the other team to bring in a lefty and eat your guys up in a row and all those things. So we just split the lefties up."

For Kubel, the top spot in the order will allow him to see more at-bats.

"I've always hit third or fourth," Kubel said of his time in the Minors. "This is a little bit of a change, but I'm just trying to keep it going the same way it has been. I haven't had enough at-bats since last year to try to change my approach due to the slot I'm hitting in."

A little empathy: If there is one manager who knows Matthew LeCroy's limitations at the catching position, it's Gardenhire.

The former Twin made national news on Thursday night when he was pulled from behind the plate by Nationals manager Frank Robinson in the seventh inning.

In six innings, the Astros stole seven bases off LeCroy and he committed two errors. With the tying run on base in the seventh, he was removed. It was a move not often made by a manager, and Robinson choked back tears when talking about the decision in his postgame press conference.

So on Friday, when the Twins skipper heard news of the incident, he felt for Robinson.

"It's a tough situation for the manager," Gardenhire said. "They had injuries that made them put him back there and it didn't work out. We knew around here that Matty can't throw the ball. He just doesn't have the arm strength anymore."

Twins tidbits: Castillo returned to the lineup Friday after missing Wednesday's game with soreness in his right knee. ... Torii Hunter's single in the first inning brought his hit streak to 10 games and also made it 21 consecutive games in which the center fielder has reached base. ... Minnesota's pitching staff has issued a Major League-low 106 walks, but has given up a Major League-high 502 hits.

Down on the farm: First baseman Doug Deeds and designated hitter Daniel Matienzo each drove in a run for Double-A New Britain, but after scoring two runs in the first, the Rock Cats struggled the rest of the way in a 6-2 loss to Trenton. Starter Nick Blackburn gave up six runs -- four earned -- on nine hits in 5 1/3 innings to pick up the loss. ... Designated hitter Kevin West blasted a grand slam for Class A Fort Myers, but it took a double by Garrett Guzman in the bottom of the 10th for the Miracle to pull off a 5-4 victory over Brevard County. J.P. Martinez picked up the win, throwing one hitless inning while striking out one.

Coming up: The Twins will face the Mariners in Game 2 of the three-game set at 6:10 p.m. CT on Saturday. Boof Bonser will make his second career start and square off against Seattle southpaw Jamie Moyer.

Kelly Thesier 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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