MINNEAPOLIS -- Juan Rincon entered the 2007 season with the expectation that he would be the club's primary eighth-inning setup man yet again. But having watched his ERA rise toward 6.00 during the past few weeks, it's clear that things haven't gone as planned for the right-hander. Rincon's role had already changed to more of a middle-inning spot when the team traded Ramon Ortiz to Colorado this past week. With the long-relief spot left open by Ortiz's departure, Rincon felt it might be his turn to try out yet another job in the bullpen.
Rincon filled the role of long reliever in Saturday night's 5-0 loss to the Rangers, pitching 3 1/3 scoreless innings. "I kind of knew when they got rid of Ortiz that they kind of set up the table for me to be the long guy," Rincon said. "Hopefully it's a new beginning. I'm looking to get every single opportunity I can to get back to [my form]. That's what I'm trying to do right now, no matter what the situation is." Pitching coach Rick Anderson said the team doesn't expect to use Rincon in only long-inning situations. The hope was that by extending Rincon, it could help him work all of his pitches and find the form he's been missing for most of the season. "Hopefully [Saturday night] was a good confidence builder," Anderson said. "We want him to get a feel for what pitches are. He's been such a good setup man his whole career, so to tell him, 'You are our long man,' no, it's not like that. If he throws like that and backs it up the next time, you can use him in any role." Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was certainly pleased with Rincon's performance, and most importantly, the increase in confidence he saw from the pitcher. "That's the best we've seen him in a while," Gardenhire said. "He'll be huge for our bullpen since we went down to 11 pitchers." Rincon said he and Anderson have been working on a few mechanical changes, such as adjusting his hands to be a little further back in his setup, rather than right in front of his body. "It's good because I can hide my ball a bit more and set up the ball before the pitch without tipping it," Rincon said. "I think that could be key to me bouncing back and finishing up the year strong. That's what I want." Stepping it up: One concern the Twins have had with starter Boof Bonser lately has been his inability to push late into outings. That concern was reaffirmed in Bonser's start on Saturday night, when the coaching staff felt he "hit a wall" again in the fourth inning. The team believes the culprit is a lack of stamina, which could be fixed with a change in his physical condition. Anderson and strength coach Perry Castellano met with Bonser on Sunday morning to discuss a plan to intensify Bonser's workouts and change up his nutrition plan a bit. "If we can get him down 10 or 15 pounds and get him pitching at a better weight, maybe that will help him," Gardenhire said. "He's a big guy. He does his work and it's not like his weight fluctuates up and down, it stays the same. But Perry says with a better diet and everything else, we can get him down to a better weight and maybe that will help him stay out there a little longer." Bonser's not the first pitcher that Castellano has worked with to get in better physical shape. Carlos Silva also began working out early in the morning with Castellano at a local gym, taking spinning classes. Silva's body has shown the results of his hard work, and with the change have come better results and longer outings. "Carlos has worked really hard and Perry's been a big reason," Gardenhire said. "You don't see his name in box scores or anything, but Perry's been a big plus for Carlos. Proceed with caution: Shortstop Jason Bartlett was less than encouraged when his strained left hamstring didn't respond as he hoped in Saturday's workout. But the Twins training staff believes it will only be two to three days before Bartlett is back to form. "He didn't sound like he felt that good, but they tell me when you're going through this, he's at that stage where you're working through the soreness and then you get better right away," Gardenhire said. Gardenhire said the club will wait a few days to see if Bartlett improves by that time. If that's not the case, the club might have to look at putting the shortstop on the disabled list to call up another infielder. Buscher update: Brian Buscher made his first start of his rehab assignment at Triple-A Rochester on Saturday. Buscher went 2-for-4 with a solo home run as the Red Wings DH. The third baseman has been sidelined since Aug. 6 with an infection in his right leg, an injury that resulted after Buscher fouled a ball off his leg. The expectation is still that Buscher will be ready to be activated when he is eligible to come off the disabled list on Aug. 22. Twins tidbits: With Joe Mauer slotted in as the DH for Sunday's game, Jason Kubel was given a day of rest. Kubel (strained right oblique) made his first start Saturday night in the DH spot and felt fine, but Gardenhire said he didn't feel Kubel was ready to play the outfield quite yet. ... The Twins are auctioning off a 1987 Homer Hanky quilt that was autographed by members of the 1987 world championship team. The auction will begin Monday, Aug. 20 during the game and run through the Sunday, Aug. 26 game. Bids will be taken exclusively through the Minnesota Twins charge-by-phone lines at 612-33-TWINS or 1-800-33-TWINS. Proceeds from the sale of the quilt will go to MinnesotaHelps.org to benefit the I-35W bridge collapse victims and their families. Down on the farm: Double-A New Britain first baseman Brock Peterson was named the Twins' Minor League Player of the Week ending Aug. 17. Peterson, 23, hit .421 with a triple, three home runs and five RBIs in six games during the week. Coming up: The Twins will open up a three-game series with the Mariners on Monday night at the Metrodome. Right-hander Matt Garza (2-3, 2.05) and Mariners left-hander Horacio Ramirez (7-4, 7.38) will face off for the second time in a week in the 7:10 p.m. CT start.
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.