Notes: Bonser back in rotation

Notes: Bonser back in rotation

KANSAS CITY -- Before Wednesday's game, manager Ron Gardenhire announced the Twins would move Boof Bonser to the bullpen. After Carlos Silva went two innings and left because of a strained right groin, Bonser could rejoin the rotation if Silva is unavailable for his next start.

Kevin Slowey, who was originally expected to take Bonser's spot on Sunday, will pitch Monday after throwing 3 1/3 innings in relief of Silva on Wednesday.

Because of the off-day Thursday, Scott Baker will pitch Sunday on four days' rest. If Silva can't go on Tuesday, then Bonser or Nick Blackburn are possibilities.

Bonser's status, though, is on shaky ground.

"His location hasn't been what it should be with his pitches and it is something that we have talked to him about," Gardenhire said. "He is frustrated because he would like to finish the season off starting, but that is the way it goes sometimes.

"He hasn't been lights out like we expected. We expected him to improve the last half of the season, and it has been staying right there and flat."

Bonser has posted a 2-10 record and a 5.46 ERA in his last 16 starts. He has just one quality start since Aug. 1. On Monday, Bonser earned his second win since June 10. However, Bonser struggled through five innings and allowed two runs.

"Boof has had a rough time," Gardenhire said. "He has given us an opportunity to win, but it has been kind of one of those just like you saw the other day. Five struggling innings. We just felt like it has been a little bit of a struggle.

"The one thing that I told him is that he has battled very hard this year and we appreciate the heck out of him, and he will have every opportunity to do that in Spring Training for an opportunity next year."

Slowey, considered one of the best pitching prospects in baseball, will make his 10th big league start and 11th appearance.

In his latest recall, Slowey allowed two earned runs in 7 2/3 innings before he permitted three in 3 1/3 innings Wednesday.

"In general, you are just a little calmer," he said. "Things aren't quite as new. You kind of know that it takes good pitches to get guys out and not unbelievable pitches and you do your best to try and stick with that.

"I think it the combination of things, just garnering a little more confidence in all of my pitches and being able to use all of them in any count and being able to go out there and trusting that a good pitch will get guys out."

Blackburn could also see a start down the stretch. Blackburn has a 2.70 ERA in two long relief appearances this season and posted a 7-3 record and 2.11 ERA for Triple-A Rochester, including a streak of 44 consecutive scoreless innings.

Like Slowey and Blackburn, Bonser still figures into the Twins' 2008 plans. Minnesota would like to see Bonser pitch deeper into games and sharpen his mental and physical approach.

"By no means are we giving up on Boof Bonser," Gardenhire said. "We love the guy. He has three Major League pitches, he competes, but he looks like he is kind of flat right now, and we will take a step back and give another guy a start, and maybe that will make him more hungry for next year."

Bonser, who is listed at 6-foot-4 and 260 pounds, has had trouble in later innings of games. He has been a league-average pitcher through the first four innings, but his splits spike in the fifth inning (.333 average against) and sixth inning (.314).

"It is not the issue whether he works," Gardenhire said. "There are issues on lots of guys on how they take care of themselves up here. And he is one of them. He has to take care of himself better. This is about performance on the field more than anything else right now."

Reyes to return: Dennys Reyes will return to the team on Friday. Reyes was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Aug. 26 with inflammation in his left elbow.

"We will see how he feels and go from there," general manager Terry Ryan said.

Reyes, who is 2-1 with a 3.99 ERA as the team's primary left-handed specialist this season, could return to game action before the end of the season.

"I don't know until we get a look at him," Ryan said. "I would say that it would be doubtful, but who knows? I don't think that we would get [Glen] Perkins back, but here he is."

Neshek improves against lefties: Pat Neshek has been very impressive against left-handed hitters this season, holding them to a .165 batting average and a .574 on-base plus slugging percentage.

The OPS against is fourth in the American League among right-handed, non-closing relievers, behind the Red Sox's Mike Timlin, Texas' Joaquin Benoit and Detroit's Zach Miner.

Last season, Neshek yielded a .244 average against and an .811 OPS.

"People have always said that I have been terrible against [lefties]," Neshek said. "Left-handers, you have a lot of slap hitters. I think this year I really started throwing my slider a lot more. It will come in and give them a different look. I will throw a changeup. Not much, but it is there.

"I think what has helped me this year is just throwing other pitches and having it in the back of hitters' heads and then I could get the fastball to do what I want."

Coming up: After an off-day Thursday, Matt Garza (3-5, 3.71 ERA) faces off against the Tigers' Nate Robertson (7-11, 5.04) in the first game of a three-game set in Detroit on Friday at 7:10 p.m. CT.

Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.