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Injuries add insult to Twins' loss

Injuries add insult to Twins' loss

MINNEAPOLIS -- Losing first baseman Justin Morneau on a collision play at the plate Friday night against the Marlins certainly was a big blow for the Twins.

But right now, it seems that the injuries just keep on coming for Minnesota.

It was a bruised and battered infield that had Twins manager Ron Gardenhire stressing a bit after Monday night's 8-5 loss to the Blue Jays.

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Sure, a loss to start the homestand is not the way that Gardenhire had envisioned his club coming out after a successful road trip. But it was seeing his starting second baseman spiked in the left hand at home plate and watching his temporary first baseman get his knees examined by team doctors after the loss that had Gardenhire flustered.

"We're getting some guys beat up, so it looks like we'll just have to find a way to put a team out there tomorrow," Gardenhire said.

The concern for Luis Castillo and Jeff Cirillo pushed back some of the anguish over watching Minnesota being unable to capitalize on what appeared to be a game fit for a victory. After all, it was a loss in which the Twins tagged Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay for five runs over seven innings.

"In all the years I've seen him pitch, I don't think I've ever seen him give up five runs," catcher Mike Redmond said. "He was really grinding it out, you could tell that ... but we just couldn't keep their offense down."

For most of the night, it was a seesaw battle between the two clubs to see who could hold the lead. The Twins struck first when Redmond delivered an RBI single in the second inning off Halladay for a 1-0 lead.

But then came the struggles of Twins starter Kevin Slowey. He gave up three runs in the third inning, all of them scoring on back-to-back home runs by Vernon Wells and Alex Rios. Still, the Twins found a way to knot the game up at 3 in the fourth before Slowey found trouble again in the fifth, giving up two more runs.

Relying too much on his fastball and not enough on his breaking pitches was something that hurt Slowey. But the frustration for the rookie right-hander afterward was mostly due to the fact that he couldn't provide a strong performance on a night where Halladay struggled.

"Obviously, our offense went out there and gave me a shot a couple times and made some plays behind me," Slowey said. "I just didn't make nearly enough two-strike pitches. I had a lot of guys 0-2, 1-2, 2-2, and ended up giving up hits and a couple of home runs. That's just disappointing."

Still, the Twins were able to get Slowey the no-decision by tying up the game at 5 in the bottom of the fifth. But it came at the cost of an injury to Castillo.

Home plate hasn't been particularly kind to the Twins in recent days. The spiking on Castillo's hand came as the team capitalized on some of Halladay's mistakes. A wild pitch by Toronto's ace with runners at second and third, allowed Castillo to score, and a throwing error by catcher Gregg Zaun on the play also scored Jason Bartlett. It was during the commotion, that Halladay (9-2) stepped on Castillo's hand at the plate.

But after getting his hand taped up, Castillo was able to head back on the field in the sixth. And so the Twins' attention turned to earning a victory.

With the game once again appearing within reach with the 5-5 tie, Slowey turned it over to the bullpen. This time, though, the normally stoic 'pen found trouble.

Matt Guerrier saw his 14-inning scoreless streak snapped in the eighth inning, when he gave up the final three runs of the game.

After pitching a perfect seventh inning on just seven pitches, Guerrier (1-3) found trouble right at the start of the eighth. Rios led off the inning with a double, and Guerrier then gave up a two-run shot to Matt Stairs to break up the tie. One more run scored after Guerrier loaded the bases with one out in the inning.

"It came at the wrong time," Guerrier said of his streak ending. "If we were down by a couple runs, it's not really a big deal. But a game like today, where we come back and score some runs off Halladay, you want to win that game. So it's frustrating for me."

Gardenhire shifted the focus from his bullpen to the recent inability of his starters to deliver longer outings.

"When you start going to your bullpen four innings, three innings a night, it's not going to work out," Gardenhire said. "We're going to kill those guys out there. We have to get better starts and we'll go from there."

Still, the biggest concern in the clubhouse wasn't the starters or the loss. Instead, it focused on just how the team might get through the next few days if the injuries really start to take their toll.

Even though Castillo was able to head back out on the field in the sixth, it was his inability to swing a bat during the ninth that caused concern. Luis Rodriguez pinch-hit for Castillo, whose hand had gotten worse during the course of the game. After the loss, Castillo's hand was noticeably swollen with large cuts on top of it.

"It's not good," Gardenhire said. "His hand is really swollen. If he comes in really sore tomorrow, we probably will get an X-ray."

Afterward, Cirillo said that his knee would be all right, and Castillo was hopeful he could be in the lineup on Tuesday. But the uncertainty has created some question marks for a team already thin without Morneau.

The first baseman made a quick appearance at the ballpark on Monday night to meet with team doctors. But he won't have a chance to be cleared until a more thorough examination on Tuesday morning. Even if Morneau is cleared, it's still very uncertain as to when he might be able to return to action.

Gardenhire acknowledged that a move might have to be made if the injuries continue to pile up, but for now, the focus is on trying to piece together what healthy bodies are left.

"We've got some injuries right now but we have to keep going," Castillo said. "Tomorrow is a new day and I hope to get on the field."

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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