"We have a couple weeks here to decide [our approach], and that's good because it gives us a chance to see where we're going to be at here at the deadline and what we have to do."
Much of the Twins' outlook hinges on the club's upcoming road trip. To remain in the race for the division, the Twins have to improve upon their 17-29 record away from home.
The team has yet to win a division game on the road outside of Kansas City so far this season, and with the Twins approaching three games at Cleveland followed by three more at Chicago, there is no question this is a critical junction.
"This road trip is going to be very big for us," Gardenhire said.
There are a few areas that could be strengthened, such as adding another starter or adding infield and outfield depth. But the market dictates that there isn't a strong chance of that occurring.
"It's going to be hard to find awful much right now," Gardenhire said. "So we'll go with our infield as long as it stays healthy."
That means sticking with Nick Punto at third base despite the rumors that the Twins are shopping for an everyday third baseman. Punto's recent knee scare caused some concern, but as long as Punto is able to continue playing, the Twins will leave him as their starter at third.
"I think he brings a lot to the lineup and has been very good for us if we can keep him out there on the field and healthy," Gardenhire said. "If he were not able to play, then you probably have to look for a third baseman if you can find one. But I don't think find too many awful big names out there that we can attack."
Next step to return:
Matt Guerrier is making his final step toward returning to the Twins from his broken right thumb injury. He leaves for a rehabilitation assignment on Thursday with Double-A New Britain.
Guerrier will join the team in Erie, Pa., and is scheduled to throw one or two innings on Friday. The goal is to stretch Guerrier to around 50-60 pitches before his return, which likely will take somewhere between four or five outings. If everything goes well, Guerrier could be set to return during the team's next homestand when they host the Tigers on July 28-30.
Before leaving on his rehab stint, Guerrier threw a simulated game of around 30-35 pitches on Wednesday afternoon. Everything seemed to go as anticipated.
"He was letting it go pretty good," Gardenhire said. "He was using his breaking ball and his slider, and he threw his changeup, too."
Guerrier got plenty of support in the simulated game, with teammates Jesse Crain, Kyle Lohse and Joe Nathan all wearing "Guerrier" jerseys and holding up a sign with cutout holes for their heads and the words, "You're Grrrreat!"
It was much appreciated by Guerrier, who admitted there was a little extra adrenaline in his first real pitching experience since being sidelined on June 8 with the injury. Guerrier said there is still a bit of pain while throwing, which the doctors told him was normal.
"It relaxed me a bit to see those guys," Guerrier said with a laugh. "My heart was beating fast and I had to step off a few times to just relax. I think maybe that made my hand feel better, too, with the adrenaline. I just hope there is more of that in a real game."
Rondell White was slotted into left field for the third consecutive day on Wednesday. Gardenhire has been happy with the way the veteran has played since his return, but could give him a rest from the outfield for the club's day game on Thursday. ... According to Elias, the matchup between Francisco Liriano and Scott Kazmir on Tuesday was the first time in 80 years that two left-handed pitchers both 22 or younger and with at least 10 wins for the season went head-to head. The last time was Babe Ruth (Red Sox) vs. Harry Harper (Senators) on Aug. 12, 1916. ... Since the beginning of the 2003 season, the Twins are 235-10 when they hold a lead after seven innings.
Down on the farm:
Garrett Jones blasted his 13th home run of the season as Triple-A Rochester defeated Syracuse, 6-0, on Tuesday night. Mike Smith pitched a complete-game shutout, allowing just four hits and striking out 11. ... Daniel Matienzo doubled to drive home the only run in Double-A New Britain's 6-1 loss at Reading. ... Brandon Roberts went 4-for-5 with two runs scored in Class A Fort Myers' 8-4 victory over Jupiter.
The Twins close out their four-game series with the Devil Rays on Thursday at 12:10 p.m. CT. Johan Santana will get the start in the day game against Tampa Bay right-hander James Shields.