Notes: Gardenhire 'saving' Santana

Notes: Gardenhire 'saving' Santana

BALTIMORE -- The way the American League Central race is playing out right now, it appears that the division title could be on the line in the Twins' final regular-season game against the White Sox on Sunday, Oct. 1.

And if the pitching rotation were to stay in line, it would afford the possibility to giving Johan Santana the start in that final game.

But manager Ron Gardenhire said Friday that if that decision had to be made today, he would not start Santana in that deciding game, but instead would leave him available to start Game 1 of the playoffs.

"This is just my thoughts right now," Gardenhire said. "We are going to do everything we can to win the division, but it's very important to have Johan Santana pitch two games in the playoffs in the first round. It's very important for this baseball team."

It's a difficult decision that awaits Gardenhire should the scenario happen, considering that a division title could earn them home-field advantage in the playoffs -- at least for the Division Series. With a commanding 50-24 record at the Metrodome this season, the Twins have shown that it's an atmosphere that gives them a slight edge.

Yet, knowing just how much Santana means to the rotation is also a big factor. With so much at stake in the decision, it's clear that it has been weighing on Gardenhire's mind recently.

"Tough decisions, and you hope it doesn't come down to that," Gardenhire said. "We'll do everything we can to run our pitcher out and win that last ballgame, too. But we still have to set Johan up to where he'll get two games in the playoffs.

"That's just my opinion and I've talked to a few people about it. But nobody has any good answers for me on the protocol [for that situation]."

Celebration time? If the White Sox continue to drop out of the playoff race at the pace they're on now, the Twins could face an interesting dilemma this week.

If Chicago is eliminated, Minnesota could assure itself a spot in the playoffs by earning, at the very least, the AL Wild Card. But the team could also still find itself fighting for a division championship at the same time.

So does the team celebrate getting into the playoffs or not? Right now, it seems to depend on who you ask for an answer.

Gardenhire said that many players have approached him to get his answer. And while nothing is definite yet, Gardenhire said he feels the club should wait until the division race is over before hosting the big party to celebrate.

"I think I'd hold a toast to 'em if we clinch a Wild Card spot," Gardenhire said. "I don't think you have a major celebration if you still have a chance to win the division -- as hard as that is."

But some of the players seem eager to engage in a celebration, albeit it a bit tempered knowing that they still have something to play for in the games that follow.

"I think the guys would definitely want to celebrate," Jason Bartlett said. "But nothing too serious because we know we have a job to do -- to win the division. With the mentality that we've been having to this point, I think guys are going to realize that and not take it too out of control."

Radke update: One day after throwing a good bullpen, Brad Radke reported his shoulder felt the typical day-after-throwing soreness but nothing that alarmed him.

The pitcher said he remains on schedule to play catch the next two days and then throw another bullpen Monday.

Gardenhire said that he's going to wait and see how Monday's session goes but if everything seems OK for Radke, the 12-year veteran will pitch for the club sometime during the team's final seven-game homestand.

"It's not easy at this time of the year when you're in the race to do that," Gardenhire said. "But a healthy Radke, going out and doing what he has been doing, is not a bad scenario."

A second lefty: The strong performance of Glen Perkins in his Major League debut at Fenway Park on Thursday night raised the question of whether the Twins would go to two lefties in the bullpen for the playoffs. Perkins retired the four batters he faced on 18 pitches, striking out one.

"He's a long shot," Gardenhire said of Perkins' chances. "We didn't bring him up here for that reason, but that's better than being a no shot."

For Perkins, just being afforded the possibility of being the extra lefty in the bullpen is a nice thought and one that he'll try to earn through what he hopes will be more opportunities on the mound.

"I just want to go out there and throw strikes and put it in their hands," Perkins said. "I have nothing to do with that and I have no control over it. If I can go out there and throw strikes, maybe it will make them have a tough decision."

Who's tight now? The Twins might be in the midst of a tense playoff race, but that doesn't mean that the pressure is getting to the players.

Listening to the sounds coming out of the visitors' clubhouse at Camden Yards on Friday afternoon would definitely confirm that's not the case. Loud guitar chords and strumming could be heard from one of the back rooms as many of the players were gathered around playing a video game called "Guitar Hero."

Santana was one of the Twins taking part in the game and even donned sunglasses and a hat to complete his "rock star" ensemble. Gardenhire could only sit back and chuckle as he watched his players take part in the game.

"Maybe it will release some of the tension in the clubhouse," Gardenhire said. "I mean, they're such a tight group."

Coming up: The Twins will face the Orioles for Game 2 of their series Saturday in a 3:35 p.m. CT start. Right-hander Scott Baker (5-8, 6.33) will try to make it two wins in a row, as he faces Baltimore lefty Erik Bedard (15-9, 3.62).

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